Spokane, WA-– The Gonzaga Bulldogs have had to deal with more adversity this season with injuries and sickness than coaching staff members can recall from past seasons. But Thursday night the Zags got a big boost from one of those players who has had his fair share of adversity this season. Junior power forward Sam Dower Jr. (6’9, 225) in 30 minutes of playing time, scored 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting (2-3 3PT) and ripped down 10 rebounds (four offensive) to lead all Zag players in scoring and rebounding. Dower’s strong presence inside was a big factor in keeping a scrappy San Diego team at bay in a 59-56 victory.
Dower, who has missed two games in the last month and seen limited action in other games, appears to be almost back at full-strength and paired with sophomore center Przemek Karnowski (7’1, 305) and junior combo guard Kevin Pangos (6’2, 182), gives the Zags a nice 1-2-3 punch that creates tough defensive responsibilities for any opposing team.
A much slender, more mobile and confident Karnowski, once again put in a solid performance with 12 points and six rebounds. Karnowski, who recently has been carrying a majority of the front-court load in Dower’s absence and limited minutes, was double teamed a lot in the first half but did an excellent job of finding open teammates and using his counter/secondary post moves to score and punish the defensive strategy of the Toreros.
Pangos, whose style of play resembles that of San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, had 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting and gathered up five defensive rebounds. Once again, Pangos was an artist running the pick-and-roll and kept the Gonzaga offense running efficiently throughout the game. With 1:20 left in the game and the Zags only up 1, Pangos had key drive and finished lay-up to give the Zags a 3-point cushion that San Diego failed to recover from.
In addition to Dower, Karnowski and Pangos, Gonzaga got 10 points and seven rebounds from sophomore guard Kyle Dranginis (6’5, 200) who had two very clutch defensive rebounds and an offensive rebound in the last two minutes of the game. Along with Dranginis, junior guard Gary Bell Jr. (6’1, 220) another Zag player who has been trying to get to full-strength, played 22 minutes, scored five points and defensively came up big for his team in the closing minutes by locking down San Diego’s hot scoring junior guard Johnny Dee (6’0, 182).
San Diego, a very talented and athletic team, was led by Dee who was in the zone, scoring 26 points on 8-of-10 shooting (3-3 3PT, 7-7 FT) to go along with four rebounds and three steals. Dee possess a very nice offense game that includes being able to score from anywhere on the offensive end. He can hit 3pt shots coming off screens, the dribble or spot-up kick outs. Dee is an effective penetrator who can score off of mid-range pull-ups, finishing at the rim or drawing contact to get free-throws. On the season Dee is shooting 92.5 percent from the foul line. Defensively, he is a very scrappy and intense defender who posesses a keen sense of anticipation coupled with quick hands.
To go with Dee’s offensive effort the Toreros got 10 points and seven rebounds from German born senior center/power forward Dennis Kramer (6’11, 241). Kramer, who is the son of former Denver Nugget and Dallas Maverick Arvid Kramer, is a solid front-court player. He has a very fundamentally sound back-to-the basket low post game that includes a soft touch and a preference to score off right or left-handed jump hooks. Defensively Kramer showed that even though he has a slender 6’11 frame, he has the physical and fundamental ability to somewhat effectively defend a player of Karnowski’s size and skill. In one-on-one situations versus Karnowski, Kramer did not get over-powered and forced Karnowski to go his counter moves or pass the ball.
Kramer averages 11.6 ppg and 6.3 rpg and is very well respected and praised by the San Diego coaching staff for his character and work ethic. He’s a solid prospect for any BBL team or mid-high level international teams.
The Zags (17-3, 7-1) face BYU on Saturday. San Diego (11-10, 2-6) travel to Portland to face the Pilots on Saturday as well.
Eric Stang is a Correspondent ad Scout for NetScouts Basketball.