Freshman Karnowski ignites Zags in opener
In a game fully stocked with Gonzaga highlights, one sequence probably stood out.
Przemek Karnowski, the talented 7-foot-1 center from Poland, scored on a pick-and-roll, beat the defense down the court two times in a row for easy baskets, got fouled on the low block, made another field goal and forced a turnover on a Southern Utah guard 30 feet from the hoop.
Karnowski finished with 22 points and five more Bulldogs reached double figures as No. 21 Gonzaga opened the men’s basketball season with a 103-65 rout over the Thunderbirds in front of a sell-out crowd of 6,000 Friday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
One of Karnowski’s goals when he arrived in Spokane more than two months ago was improving his conditioning level. He’s already dropped 15 pounds and weighs 290.
“It’s helping me to run the floor better,” Karnowski said. “I’ve been working with the strength coach and trying to give my best.”
The Bulldogs’ balance was evident throughout. At half, seven players had scored between five and seven points as Gonzaga took a commanding 44-27 lead.
“We’ve been talking about being in for 5 minutes and pass it on to the next guy because of this depth,” head coach Mark Few said. “We have to be able to extend our intensity as I come out and you come in. Hopefully, it starts to show with a cumulative effect, especially with those bigs running and running and running.”
Guy Landry Edi finished with 16 points and seven boards. Sam Dower scored 15 points, David Stockton and Elias Harris each had 12 and Kevin Pangos added 10 points, six assists and four steals. The Bulldogs came up with 18 steals while forcing 28 turnovers and converting them into 34 points.
Nobody played longer than 25 minutes. GU’s bench outscored SUU’s 42-11.
“We have a lot of guys that can score,” said Stockton, who had four assists and three steals in 21 minutes. “We have a lot of people that can do a lot of different things, not just scorers but good players. We can pass it, move it and run. I feel like we can do most everything.”
Gonzaga made 74.2 percent of its second-half shots. Karnowski was 7 of 9 in the final 20 minutes.
“You see him walk into the room and you don’t expect him to be able to move like that,” Stockton said. “It’s been a pleasure playing with him so far. It’ll be neat to see what he can do.”
The outcome was never in doubt after GU went on a 10-0 run early in the first half behind field goals by Dower, Harris, Karnowski, Stockton and a Harris free throw. The margin was 21 late in the half before the Thunderbirds scored the final four points.
Gonzaga applied heavy on-ball pressure and was opportunistic in the passing lanes.
“We knew (first-year Southern Utah coach Nick Robinson) is ingrained in the Stanford system,” Few said. “That’s a rhythm system and if you can disrupt the rhythm you’re better off than chasing them through the myriad of screens.”
Karnowski had seen highlights of GU’s crowd on YouTube, but it didn’t compare to the real thing.
“I’ve never played in front of so many people. That’s new for me,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”
Southern Utah, first-year member of the Big Sky Conference, was led by Jackson Stevenett’s 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting. The Thunderbirds made 27 of 55 field goals (49 percent).
The competition level rises considerably when West Virginia visits The Kennel at 9 p.m. Monday.