Advertisement

After 26-point outing against San Francisco, Graham Ike credits former GU standout Johnathan Williams for timely tips

Mar. 1—SAN FRANCISCO — Fresh off a standout professional season in the Philippines, Johnathan Williams recently stopped by Gonzaga's campus to catch a home game and visit with his former college coaches.

Williams had been following the Bulldogs from abroad and apparently took interest in Graham Ike, the junior forward who joined Gonzaga this offseason from Wyoming.

A former two-time All-West Coast Conference selection who took a similar route to Gonzaga after transferring from Missouri, Williams had a few thoughts for Ike, who's on track to collect a few of the same accolades during his first season with the Bulldogs.

Early in the season, it wasn't uncommon for Ike to pick up a foul inside the game's opening minutes, with the second often coming in quick succession. It forced the Zags to play through long, crucial first-half stretches without their best scorer on the floor.

Ike, thanks in part to advice from Williams, has been more mindful of his foul situation earlier in games, learning when to pick his spots and where to take his chances.

"Definitely trying to keep the time and score in perspective," Ike said.

It's one of the reasons Ike's managed to rattle off at least 20 points in each of Gonzaga's last six games and in nine of the last 11. The junior forward poured in 26 more in Thursday's 86-68 victory over San Francisco, solidifying Gonzaga's spot as the No. 2 seed at the upcoming West Coast Conference Tournament.

Ike eventually fouled out after committing his fourth and fifth inside the game's final five minutes, at a point when the Zags were already leading by 27 points, but it took him 18 minutes to pick up his first foul and GU's top scorer wasn't whistled for another until the 13-minute mark of the second half.

"I was talking to Johnathan Williams, he was like, 'man, you've just got to know when to let something go, keep my hands back,'" Ike said. "My teammates are definitely telling me to just stay straight up, wall up. But yeah, it's starting to get better."

The Dons struggled to contain Ike for the second time this season after conceding 22 points to the junior when the teams met in Spokane on Jan. 25. After Thursday's game at the Chase Center, he now has 48 points in two games against USF, going 15 of 22 from the field and 18 of 19 from the free throw line.

"I think he's playing at an elite level right now," Dons coach Chris Gerlufsen said. "He's got a swagger to him, he's got a confidence to him. He's jokingly talking to me during the game. He's got a competitive spirit that you need if you want to be an elite big guy.

"He's been doing this his whole career. I think he's probably finally a little bit more healthy and he knows the system a little bit better than he did at the start of the year."

Ike's scoring streak has forced opponents to make a choice: take their chances with a single defender on the junior big man or double Gonzaga's top scorer and rely on three players to guard the four other Bulldogs.

Neither strategy has been particularly effective against a Gonzaga team that's scored at least 86 points in each of its last seven games and made 75% of its shots from the field in the second half on Thursday.

"Kudos to these guys for finding me, appreciative of that," Ike said. "We just know what the looks are going to look like. If they double, it's going to be a kick out. If not, pick your poison. ... Appreciate of my guys just finding me on the seals, duck ins, rolls, everything."

Through Gonzaga's first 12 games, Ike played 25-plus minutes just twice, but his usage has increased in WCC play. The forward has hit that total in each of GU's last five games and nine times since a Dec. 29 loss to San Diego State, including five games where Ike's played at least 30 minutes.

"That was good of (Williams) to impart a little wisdom to him," Few said.