SPOKANE, WASHINGTON – Gonzaga rode a strong effort from Rui Hachimura to open the season with a rout.
Hachimura, a native of Toyama Prefecture, scored 33 points to help the third-ranked Bulldogs to a 120-79 win over Idaho State in the season opener for both teams Tuesday night.
Zach Norvell Jr. added 23 points and seven rebounds for Gonzaga (1-0), which has its highest preseason ranking in school history.
“I was able to get hot for a little bit but when Rui got it going like that, we want to keep feeding him and play off of him,” said Norvell Jr.
Despite the scoring output, Hachimura feels the Zags still have work to do.
“We have to play together, we just started. I think they scored 80 or something, so we got to play more defense,” said Hachimura.
Hachimura, who made his debut for Japan’s national team in June, is in his junior year at Gonzaga. He was projected as the 14th pick in ESPN’s latest mock NBA Draft.
It was business as usual for Gonzaga in the opening minute. The Zags pushed out to an early 18-7 lead, but the Bengals went on a 9-0 run spanning 2:35 to make the score 18-16 with 12:20 to go in the first half.
Brandon Boyd scored 13 points for Idaho State (0-1). Boyd went 3-for-4 from the field during the Bengals’ run. Kelvin Jones the 208-cm center for Idaho State made an impact on defense. But he picked up his third foul at the end of the first half limiting his time on the court. Jones eventually fouled out in the second half.
“I’m proud of my guys,” said Idaho State coach Bill Evans. “I think we played hard, and the score just got away from us.”
After the outburst from Idaho State, Gonzaga answered with several scoring runs of its own to end the first half. After a timeout from coach Mark Few, Gonzaga started to attack the paint instead of settling for jump shots.
“I don’t think we are going to play light’s out perfect all game, that’s basketball,” said Few. “Teams make runs and make adjustments and every shot doesn’t go in.”
The Zags led 37-29 before going on a 10-2 run over the course of 1:28. The Bulldogs run gave them a 47-31 advantage changing the game. The Zags put the game into cruise control for the rest of the contest. Including complete dominance in the second half featuring highlight reel dunks from Hachimura amid an offensive burst for the Bulldogs.