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West Notes: Illnesses, injuries can't slow WCC leader Gonzaga

Published January 7, 2014 11:43 am

Men's basketball • Short-handed Zags plow through Saint Mary's
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Well, that didn't take long.

Four games into the West Coast Conference basketball season, No. 22 Gonzaga has already served notice that it is still the king of the league. Heck, it isn't even close.

Sure, the Zags (4-0, 14-2) have yet to leave the McCarthey Athletic Center for a WCC game, but they are the league's only unbeaten team.

More remarkable is the fact that Gonzaga won all four games by double digits, including a 73-51 rout of Saint Mary's, when it wasn't at full strength.

"This has been a really, really hard week," Gonzaga coach Mark Few told The Spokesman-Review. "They really responded, with significant injuries, significant guys out, guys sick and guys injured playing a lot of minutes. I couldn't be prouder of a group."

Starter Gary Bell Jr. is still out with a broken hand. Stars Kevin Pangos (turf toe) and Sam Dower (bad back, food poisoning) are battling ailments but still playing, and playing well.

David Stockton had the flu, but still went 5 for 5 from the field and had 15 points and five assists in the 86-64 win over WCC newcomer Pacific on Saturday.

The four wins came when GU students were still on the holiday break, so The Kennel was not at full-strength, but that hardly mattered.

Help on the way

BYU's roster will look better now, if not the actual product coach Dave Rose puts out on the floor. Monday, Rose announced that 6-foot-6 UNLV transfer Jamal Aytes and 6-foot-10 center Isaac Neilson have been added to the Cougars' roster.

Neither player will play for the Cougars this season; Aytes cannot due to NCAA transfer rules, but he began practicing with the team on Monday.

Neilson, who returned from a two-year church mission in Alabama in December, is from Mission Viejo, Calif and originally signed with BYU in 2010. Neilson is redshirting this season and working on strength and conditioning, but will not immediately participate in practice.

Last week, Rose said that another possible solution to BYU's thin front line, Bronson Kaufusi, won't happen because Kaufusi has decided not to play basketball so he can concentrate fully on football.

Oregon's offense

Oregon is still one of nation's highest-scoring teams, tied at the top with VMI and Northwestern State at 89.4 points per game, but it is no longer unbeaten after falling 100-91 at Colorado on Sunday in a highly entertaining game at the Coors Event Center.

The Ducks (13-1) were able to squeak past BYU and Utah in overtime, but weren't able to move their record to 14-0 for the first time since 1937-38.

"Very disappointing," said Oregon coach Dana Altman after Colorado shot 56 percent from the field. "We just didn't give ourselves a chance."

Despite its shooting woes against Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine after getting 96 points against Oregon, BYU is tied with Oklahoma as the fifth-highest scoring team in the country, averaging 87.3 ppg.

Players of the Week

Colorado's Askia Booker, BYU's Skyler Halford and San Diego State's Xavier Thames are the Pac-12, West Coast Conference and Mountain West players of the week, respectively. Booker averaged 20 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists as No. 20 Colorado opened league play with wins over Oregon State and Oregon. Halford scored 28 points on 11 of 16 shooting as BYU righted itself on Saturday with an 87-53 win over San Diego. Thames averaged 20.5 points in wins at Colorado State and Kansas.