They’ve had Kraziness in the Kennel, dozens of practices, numerous scrimmage situations at practice and toppled No. 1 Michigan State in a closed scrimmage on Oct. 19.
Finally, an actual game. Sort of.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs entertain Lewis-Clark State College on Friday in an exhibition matchup that won’t count on the Zags’ record.
The Zags’ final dress rehearsal before Tuesday’s season opener against Alabama State comes against the NAIA visitors from Lewiston. LCSC is 3-0, not counting an 88-73 exhibition win over Idaho in Moscow on Tuesday.
It’s an opportunity for the fan base to check out No. 8 Gonzaga’s new-look roster, which features just four returners, six freshmen and grad transfer guards Admon Gilder and Ryan Woolridge.
And it’s an opportunity for Zag veterans and newcomers alike to make a good first impression in game-type conditions.
That’s what Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke did last season, combining for 22 free-throw attempts and 41 points in an exhibition rout over Central Washington. Two years ago Killian Tillie had a career-best 28 points on 11-of-11 shooting in a 96-67 victory over College of Idaho. Nigel Williams-Goss dropped 20 points in blowout over West Georgia in 2016.
Tillie, who had knee surgery Oct. 3, will not play in Friday’s exhibition game, but there’s a chance the senior forward could be back for the regular-season opener. Freshman center Oumar Ballo won’t play after the NCAA last week ruled the Mali native will be an academic redshirt this season.
Gonzaga has avoided exhibition game slipups that seem to snag a big-name program every couple of years. Notable upsets in the last decade include South Carolina falling to Augusta last October, Barry outlasting Auburn in 2017, Augustana edging Iowa in 2015, Seattle Pacific defeating Arizona in 2011 and Le Moyne knocking off Syracuse in 2009.
The Zags have rolled in exhibition matchups, winning their last 12 by an average of 37 points. Thompson Rivers, of Kamloops, B.C., lost by 26 at the McCarthey Athletic Center in 2014, the closest margin in GU exhibition games dating back to 2009. The next closest was College of Idaho’s 29-point setback in 2018.
Gonzaga has scored at least 90 points in every exhibition game since 2009.
Lewis-Clark State went 30-7 last season and advanced to the NAIA Final Four in head coach Austin Johnson’s first season. The 23rd-ranked Tigers are picked to finish third in the Frontier Conference. LCSC will join the NAIA Cascade Collegiate Conference next year.
Junior guard Hodges Bailey leads LCSC at 15.3 points per game. Junior guard Damek Mitchell, NAIA All-America honorable mention last year, puts up 13.0 points and 6.5 rebounds.
The Warriors’ roster includes two players from Spokane. Junior guard Dedrick Pakootas, who played at Mead and Community Colleges of Spokane, is averaging 5.3 points. Senior reserve guard Conner Moffatt is a Lakeside High product.
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