The best defense in the West Coast Conference managed to slow down No. 20 Gonzaga, but that’s about all it did.
Austin Daye scored 17 points and the Bulldogs still beat San Diego 64-47 on Saturday in the kind of defensive slugfest that the Toreros prefer. Gonzaga’s 64 points matched a season low, and were just above the 60 points that San Diego typically gives up.
“They want to play that style and tempo,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Not everyone comes in here and runs up and down.”
Good thing the Bulldogs are versatile.
Gonzaga (16-4, 7-0) responded with one of its best defensive efforts of the season, holding the Toreros to 33 percent shooting and outrebounding them 44-25.
Gyno Pomare, San Diego’s top scorer, was held to six points — eight below his average — and Trumaine Johnson scored seven, five below his average.
Danny Brown led San Diego (12-10, 4-3) with 11 points
San Diego coach Bill Grier is in his second season with the Toreros after spending 16 years as an assistant with Gonzaga. Any insider knowledge didn’t help much, though.
“You can know what they are going to do, but you still have to stop it,” he said.
Grier pointed to Gonzaga’s 16 offensive rebounds, which led to 17 points, as a key factor.
“We gave them too many offensive rebounds,” he said.
Josh Heytvelt added 13 points and nine rebounds for Gonzaga, which has won eight straight after losing three in a row in late December.
The Zags completed their first swing through the West Coast Conference with barely a challenge, beating league foes by an average of more than 20 points per game. Their closest game was a 69-62 win over No. 22 Saint Mary’s on Thursday.
“It was a very, very good weekend for us,” Few said. “We beat two good teams competing for the conference championship.”
Few praised the defensive work by Heytvelt on Pomare, who made just two of six shots.
“We fronted him all night,” Heytvelt said. “We did frustrate him.”
The Zags dominated at the free throw line, making 18 of 26 shots. San Diego was 5-of-8 from the foul stripe.
Gonzaga missed its first six shots and fell behind 6-2 before holding the Toreros scoreless for nearly 7 minutes. The Bulldogs ran off 14 points with just over 7 minutes left in the half, with Daye scoring five during the spurt.
Gonzaga led 27-18 at halftime, the fewest points the Bulldogs have scored in the first half all season. The Zags made only 34 percent of their shots in the first, while San Diego was 6-of-19 from the field.
Daye scored the first three baskets of the second half for Gonzaga, which extended its lead to 37-23 by making five of its first seven shots. Heytvelt’s 3-pointer capped a 7-0 run that lifted the Zags to a 47-28 lead with 10 minutes left.
San Diego sank four 3-pointers over the next five minutes to close to 53-40, but could get no closer. Gonzaga has held seven of its past eight opponents below 40 percent shooting.
Few is 252-64 in 10 seasons at Gonzaga, and is tied with his mentor Dan Fitzgerald for second on the all-time win list at Gonzaga. Hank Anderson leads with 290 wins.
Gonzaga has won 27 of the past 32 meetings, although the Bulldogs lost to the Toreros in the West Coast Conference title game last season. Gonzaga also improved to 60-3 at the McCarthey Athletic Center since it opened in 2004.