Andrew Sorenson spent his first year at Gonzaga as a member of the vocal student section known as the Kennel Club.
He walked onto the team as a sophomore, but saw no action. He played a handful of minutes over the next three seasons, usually when the game was out of hand.
Tuesday night he got his first start, and scored 15 points as No. 14 Gonzaga routed South Carolina-Upstate 90-40 to close the regular season.
“This is going to be a long-told story,” an ecstatic Sorenson said. “My kids are going to get sick of it.”
Sorenson started as part of Senior Day, and the fan favorite made five of 11 shots. He had scored a total of 23 points this season coming into the game.
Matt Bouldin led five Zags into double figures with 16 points as the Bulldogs routed the Spartans in what was a non-conference tuneup heading into this weekend’s West Coast Conference tournament.
Gonzaga (24-5) is 16-1 since New Year’s Day, losing only to No. 5 Memphis. The Zags won all 14 of their WCC games and are the top seed in the WCC tournament as they seek an 11th consecutive trip to the NCAAs.
Bobby Davis scored 20 points and had 10 rebounds to lead overmatched South Carolina-Upstate (9-21), which is in its second year of Division I basketball. It was their worst loss of the season.
The Zags harassed Upstate into 26 turnovers, including 18 steals, and turned many of those into breakaway stuffs. The Spartans shot just 29 percent from the field, while Gonzaga cooled after a blistering start to make 47 percent of its shots.
“We turned the ball over more than we had in quite some time,” Upstate coach Eddie Payne said. “Their pressure bothered us.”
Gonzaga scored 37 points off turnovers, and outscored the Spartans 36-18 in the paint in a dominating performance. They committed only four turnovers.
“It’s a perfect ending here at home for the seniors,” coach Mark Few said. “We wanted to get after them on defense, and everyone was incredibly unselfish.”
This was the final home game for Jeremy Pargo, who had seven assists; Josh Heytvelt, who scored 12 points; Micah Downs, who had 11; Sorenson and Ira Brown, who had seven points and six rebounds. They’ll miss the friendly confines of the McCarthey Athletic Center, where the Zags are 63-3 since it opened in 2004.
Gonzaga opened with a 17-4 lead by making eight of its first 11 shots, and was never threatened. With 10 minutes left in the first, the Zags led 27-6 and had made 12-of-16 shots, while stealing the ball seven times from the Spartans.
Gonzaga led 43-16 at halftime, the Spartans’ biggest midpoint deficit of the season.
Sorenson opened the second half with a 3-pointer as Gonzaga went on a 17-8 run to take a 60-24 lead.
Gonzaga’s 24 wins tied them with Saint Mary’s for most in the WCC.
They have a bye into the semifinals of the league tournament in Las Vegas, and this game was intended to help the Zags stay sharp during a long layoff.
“People play with a sense of desperation down there that we need to match,” Few said. “They are tough, grinder games.”