Gonzaga’s schedule will toughen considerably over the next few weeks, but its next opponent should present nothing more than a tuneup for that stretch.
After a blowout victory in their season opener, the 12th-ranked Bulldogs look for another one Sunday when they host IUPUI in the CBE Classic.
Once again, Gonzaga is playing one of the nation’s most challenging non-conference schedules. After Sunday’s contest, the Bulldogs host No. 25 San Diego State on Tuesday before facing No. 3 Kansas State and either No. 1 Duke or Marquette in Kansas City in the CBE Classic championship round beginning Nov. 22. They also host No. 13 Illinois on Dec. 4.
Sunday provides Gonzaga with another chance to prepare for those tough matchups after the Zags opened the season with a 117-72 win over Southern on Friday.
Steven Gray had 25 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for the Bulldogs, who were 13 of 22 from 3-point range and had a 57-16 rebounding advantage.
Gray, the team’s lone senior, scored 15 points in the first half and finished the game 8 of 12 from the field with five 3-pointers.
“He was great tonight. He showed some great leadership,” coach Mark Few said. “Obviously, early when the game was still in the balance, he made some huge plays to get it going and break it open.”
With four returning starters from last season’s 27-7 team, Gonzaga will be counting on its veterans over the coming weeks. However, it also received encouraging play from its bench Friday. Sam Dower had 19 points and six rebounds in 17 minutes while fellow freshman Mathis Monninghoff had 12 points, hitting all four of his 3-point attempts.
“It was a good start to the season,” Few said. “We were able to get a lot of guys in, get some good experience, especially with the younger guys.”
Monninghoff, a Germany native, is looking to follow the success of countryman Elias Harris, who averaged 14.9 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds last season. Harris had 12 points Friday, teaming with 7-footer Robert Sacre and 6-11 forward Kelly Olynyk in a starting frontcourt which combined for 33 points and 20 boards.
Competing with Gonzaga’s size will be a significant challenge for IUPUI, which opens its season Sunday. While the Bulldogs have four players at 6-foot-8 or taller, the Jaguars only have two - neither is a starter. They ranked seventh in the 10-team Summit League last season with 33.3 rebounds per game.
IUPUI was ranked second among Division I teams in field goal shooting at 50.4 percent last season but lost two of its most effective shooters, including leading scorer and rebounder Robert Glenn.
However, the Jaguars bring back three starters from last season’s team, which went 25-11 and finished second in the Summit League. Alex Young, who was second in scoring with 18.3 points per game last season, is expected to be one of the conference’s top players while Leroy Nobles (13.2 ppg) also returns.
“I like what we’ve got,” coach Ron Hunter told IUPUI’s official website. “Alex is one of the best wings at our level and should be our go-to guy. We’re not a one-man show, though. The thing I like about this group is we’ve got a lot of depth and we’ve got a lot of options.”
The Jaguars are 0-7 all-time against Top 25 opponents and didn’t play one last season, but they’ll face two in the next week. They take on San Diego State next Sunday.