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Points in the Paint Push Zags Past Aggies 80-68

Unseasonably low game time temperatures hovered around zero degrees outside the Kennel. That chill made its way inside as neither team had a hot shooting night.

Gerard Coleman was explosive off the bench.
Gerard Coleman was explosive off the bench.
William Mancebo

Maybe it was the near zero degree weather outside, or maybe it was the 7' 5", 360lbs Sim Bhullar, but Gonzaga had a hard time getting things going early. Nothing went as expected early in a very odd start.

The Zags trailed for almost all of the first half thanks to an 0-5 showing from behind the arc.

Gonzaga came into this game as the nation's second best three point shooting team, and according to Ken Pomeroy the nation's most efficient offense.

Their shots weren't falling from deep, but the Zags managed to outscore the larger Aggies in the paint. Of their 22 points in the paint during the first half, none came from center Przemek Karnowski who went 0-5 from the floor. Forward Sam Dower had eight. Slashing wing Gerard Coleman came off the bench and added ten.

Neither team shot well from the field, Gonzaga shot just 35.1% and New Mexico State shot 43.3%. The Aggies poor shooting allowed the Zags to hang around for most of the first half. With 3:11 remaining in the half, Gonzaga took the lead for the first time since the 17:53 mark.

The turning point, when the Zags went from struggling to cruising, came just a minute and a half into the second period. Bhullar had the ball out beyond the three point line with Karnowski guarding him. Bhullar tried to turn and face up Karnowski, but his elbow clipped Karnowski above the shoulder. By the rules, irregardless of intent, contact above the shoulder is a flagrant foul. After an extended review by the officials, Bhullar was issued a flagrant 1 foul. That was his third foul of the game so Marvin Menzies was forced to put his star on the bench.

Once Bhullar came back off the bench, he promptly picked up his fourth foul. Once again, it was Karnowski who drew the foul.

Without Bhullar on the floor (did I mention this was a weird game?), the Zags started knocking down threes. Kevin Pangos hit the Zags' first three of the game with 16:19. Pangos would go on to hit two more threes and David Stockton pitched in one as well. The Zags average nearly 11 made threes per game.

A pair of Sam Dower dunks with five minutes remaining pushed the Gonzaga lead to 14 points. Dower finished with a game high 22 points. Gerard Coleman added 21 as well, all coming inside the arc.

The Aggies bigs seemed to throw Gonzaga off early, but by the end of the game the Zags had 15 more rebounds and 20 more points in the paint than the Aggies.

With only two serviceable post players on their roster, Gonzaga's lack of depth has been exploited before. With a guy like Sim Bhullar in the game, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect a perimeter oriented game tonight. That wasn't the case, and the Zags managed to put up a 12 point win anyways.