One of the most difficult tasks for Gonzaga this season is replacing a pair of frontcourt stars, All-American Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris.
Sam Dower might provide at least part of the solution for the 15th-ranked Bulldogs, and he’ll try to build on a stellar season opener when Colorado State visits Monday night.
Gonzaga (1-0) came into the season with an experienced backcourt - juniors Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. are third-year starters - but had to overcome the losses of Olynyk and Harris, one of the school’s all-time leading scorers and rebounders.
Dower perhaps gave Bulldogs fans some hope that doing so might be a little bit easier after he had 21 points and a career-high 17 rebounds in a 100-76 win over Bryant on Saturday.
“It’s finally my time and I’m really excited about that,” Dower said after his eighth career start. “I put in a lot of hard work preparing for this season and it showed tonight. I feel a lot more confident (starting) than I did coming off the bench. When you start, you have to set the bar out there for the guys.”
The senior, who was 8 of 13 from the field, previously had one double-figure rebounding game and had surpassed 20 points just twice.
Former Providence guard Gerard Coleman added 15 points and four steals in his debut for Gonzaga, and 7-foot-1 center Przemek Karnowski was one of five players to score in double figures despite being limited to 12 minutes due to foul trouble.
“We’ve got a lot of potential,” Coleman said. “We’re going to keep playing hard and keep trying to get better where we’re weak at and keep things going.”
Gonzaga will try to earn its next win against a Colorado State team that lost all of its starters from a school-record, 26-win squad in 2012-13. In his third career start, junior guard Daniel Bejarano had 17 points, 16 rebounds and five assists in Friday’s opener, a 99-70 win over Division II opponent UC Colorado Springs.
Bejarano was the Mountain West’s sixth man of the year last season after transferring from Arizona.
“We have a long ways to go with a great bunch of guys. If we can stay healthy, it will be interesting to see how far we can take this team in a short period of time,” coach Larry Eustachy said. “What happened today won’t hurt on Monday, but it’s going to be a lot different situation.
“We’ve got guys who have never played at this level. Whatever happens Monday, we’ll be better for it.”
The Rams (1-0) have split four all-time matchups with Gonzaga and won 72-61 in the most recent one Dec. 7, 1996.
Colorado State has dropped its last six games against ranked opponents, including four last season, and 22 straight on the road.