Spokane, WA (Sports Network) - The 21st-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs tip off the
2012-13 season in the friendly confines of the McCarthey Athletic Center
tonight, as they host the Big Sky Conference's Southern Utah Thunderbirds.
Southern Utah finished last season 14-17 overall and 8-10 in Summit League
play before migrating to the Big Sky in the off-season. The new conference is
not the only change the program experienced, as Nick Robinson will be making
his head coaching debut tonight as he fills the shoes of the retired Roger
Reid. Robinson graduated from Stanford in 2005 after a stellar collegiate
career. He has spent the past three seasons on the LSU staff as an assistant.
Gonzaga looks to continue its impressive run as one of the nation's top mid-
major programs under Mark Few. The Bulldogs have reached the NCAA Tournament
in each of the past 14 seasons, and reached the West Coast Conference
Tournament championship game in each of the past 16 seasons. Few's squad lost
to its WCC rival in the league title tilt last year and lost a tough matchup
to Ohio State in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
This will be just the third meeting between these schools, and the series is
tied, 1-1. Gonzaga suffered a 71-47 loss to SUU on Nov. 3, 1996, which was the
most recent encounter.
Robinson will turn to returning senior starters Jackson Stevenett and Damon
Heuir for leadership this year. Stevenett is a 6-4 forward and a Second-Team
All-Summit League honoree from a season ago, and he led SUU in both scoring
(14.1 ppg) and rebounding (5.7 rpg). A few new faces will be in the rotation
for the Thunderbirds this winter, as Jayson Cheesman (6-11, 250) provides a
big frame and will help on the boards, while Jared Jeffery could become a
starter after playing 23 games as a reserve last season. Jordan Johnson is the
team's best defensive player and should only improve under the defensive-
Gonzaga will be pushed by its star-laden backcourt which features super
sophomore Kevin Pangos. The Bulldogs' second-year point guard is a deadly
shooter (13.6 ppg) and he also knows when to distribute the ball (3.4 apg). He
is backed up by David Stockton, son of former Utah Jazz star John Stockton.
Gary Bell Jr. is an excellent off-guard with ability at both ends of the
floor. The Zags will be playing their first game without the bruising Robert
Sacre in the middle, but Elias Harris (13.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Sam Dower (8.3
ppg) will have no problem providing the Thunderbirds with plenty of problems
The Sports Network