It wasn’t a designed play for the three seniors on Senior Night, but it turned out pretty well. Early in the second half, Matt Bouldin missed a jump shot, Will Foster tracked down the rebound and fed Chris Pontarolo-Maag for a 6-footer in the lane for the walk-on’s first basket of the season.
It had no bearing on the outcome – Gonzaga led by as many as 37 and crushed Cal State Bakersfield 78-59 Tuesday before a crowd of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center – but it seemed appropriate on a night when the seniors were honored with pre- and postgame ceremonies.
“Oh yeah,” cracked Bouldin, when asked if he missed the shot on purpose. “Just looking out for ‘P-Maag’.”
Bouldin, who won the WCC Player of the Year award Monday, did what Gonzaga fans have grown accustomed to seeing him do the last four years. He produced 15 points, six rebounds and four assists. Foster took advantage of his first start and a career-high 19 minutes to finish with six points, five rebounds and three blocks. Pontarolo-Maag, also making his first start, grabbed a couple of rebounds early, then drew one of the loudest ovations of the evening when he connected in the lane, giving Gonzaga a 49-16 lead.
“It was big,” said Pontarolo-Maag, whose only basket last season came nearly a year ago to the day against USC-Upstate. “I was hoping to finally get one and the first (shot) went in so it worked out perfectly. Then I didn’t have to worry about it and I could just go out and play.”
The 18th-ranked Bulldogs (25-5) have played a nonconference game in early March the last two years to help fill an eight-day gap between the WCC regular-season finale and the conference tournament semifinal in Las Vegas.
It also means Senior Night doesn’t fall on a contest that could potentially determine the conference title.
Pontarolo-Maag said he was nervous about starting. Foster said it was “nice” starting for the first time since his senior year of high school, but he quickly ran out of steam.
“I was gassed within two minutes,” Foster said. “I looked up at the clock and said, ‘Is it really 18 minutes (left) right now?’ I had to tug on my jersey at 31/2 minutes.”
Cal State Bakersfield (7-22) didn’t put up much resistance, making just 7 of 32 first-half shots. Demetri Goodson broke a 4-minute dry spell with a layup and Gonzaga outscored the Roadrunners 26-7 over the final 8:30 to lead by 28 at half. Nine Bulldogs had scored by intermission.
Gonzaga’s biggest lead was 37 after Bouldin’s three-point play early in the second half. He only played nine minutes in the second half, taking a curtain call to a standing ovation with 3:10 remaining. Bouldin’s grandparents, parents and sister were on hand for his final home game.
“My parents try to come to as many as they can,” he said. “They like going to the neutral-court games when we play the big teams – the Chicagos, New Yorks, Bostons, Arizonas – but they enjoy it here. I remember the first game my mom ever came to was Washington State and I had zero points. My first goose egg I think of my life.
“I remember her being so upset, ‘Oh my gosh, my first game here and you went zero.’ Ever since then it was like, ‘Whatever mom, it’s fine.’ I think she was scared of coming up for a while.”
Reserve forward Bol Kong made three 3-pointers and scored 13 points. Robert Sacre had 10 points and four blocked shots. Steven Gray wasn’t feeling well, but still scored five points in 13 first-half minutes. He sat out the second half.
The Zags made 51.7 percent from the field, shooting at least 51 percent for the sixth time in seven games. Twelve Bulldogs scored and the bench contributed 41 points.
Trent Blakley led the Roadrunners, who will have full Division I status next season, with 19 points.
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