SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) Gonzaga made quick work of Sacramento State in the season opener for both teams on Friday night, then turned its attention to Monday’s game with No. 22 SMU.
Kyle Wiltjer scored 18 points as Gonzaga routed Sacramento State 104-58.
Advertised as deep and talented, the Zags (1-0) were all that as Kevin Pangos added 16 points, Domantas Sabonis 14, Byron Wesley 12 and Gary Bell Jr. 11.
Coach Mark Few was pleased that his team dished out 24 assists in making 36 baskets.
”Sometimes when they come that easy you might see some selfish play,” Few said. ”I loved how we were moving and sharing it.”
Next up is an early test with SMU, which was snubbed by the NCAA tournament committee last year.
”It’s the highest level of athletic talent and a hungry team,” Few said of SMU.
Coach Larry Brown stresses defense and demands toughness of his players, Few said.
”He’s a `defense first’ coach,” Few said.
Gonzaga played some solid defense on Friday, holding a veteran Sacramento State team to 36 percent shooting and forcing 22 turnovers.
Dylan Garrity scored 13 points for Sacramento State (0-1), which returned all five starters and eight of its top nine from last season. But Sacramento State played without leading scorer Mikh McKinney, who averaged 16.6 points a game last season, who sat out for disciplinary reasons.
Hornets coach Brian Katz had no illusions coming into the game.
”We knew when we saw them on tape that they have a chance to be a Final Four type of team,” Katz said of Gonzaga. ”They are the most talented team we will play, in the toughest environment. All our warts were exposed.”
Gonzaga, with three starters back and a bevy of talented newcomers, put this one away in the first half.
Trailing 7-6, Gonzaga scored 14 straight points – aided by four Sacramento State turnovers – to build a 20-7 lead.
Wiltjer, a transfer from Kentucky, hit a pair of 3-pointers as Gonzaga built a 28-14 lead midway through the first. Wiltjer made three of his four attempts from 3-point range and also grabbed three rebounds in the game.
”I’m not worried about Wiltjer shooting the ball,” Few said. ”He also did a good job on the glass.”
Przemek Karnowski’s put-back gave Gonzaga a 21-point lead at 41-20.
Gonzaga led 60-26 at halftime, after making 22 of 37 shots for 59 percent. Wiltjer led all players with 15 points at the half.
Sacramento State got off only 23 shots in the first, making 9 (39 percent). The Hornets committed 14 turnovers in the first and were outrebounded 22-11.
The second half was more of the same. Consecutive 3-pointers by Josh Perkins and Bell lifted Gonzaga to a 79-37 lead midway through the second, as Sacramento State went even colder from the floor.
For the game, Gonzaga shot 55 percent and won the rebound battle 48-28.
Sacramento State shot just 36 percent and fell to 0-14 against ranked opponents.
Gonzaga is 14-2 in season openers under coach Mark Few, last losing to St. Joseph’s in 2003. This is the 10th anniversary of the McCarthey Athletic Center, and Gonzaga has a 136-8 record in the building since it opened in the 2004-05 season. Few’s winning percentage of .801 coming into the game was the highest among active coaches. Gonzaga announced before the game that it will play Pittsburgh in the Armed Forces Classic on Nov. 13, 2015, in Okinawa, Japan.
Sacramento State was 14-16 last season and qualified for the Big Sky Conference tournament for the first time since 2006. The Hornets had won three straight season openers.
Gonzaga hosts No. 22 SMU on Monday
Sacramento State plays at UC-Riverside on Monday.