It was a rugged start offensively for Gonzaga, which missed its first eight shots.
But those next 16 minutes. And then those 20 minutes in the second half.
Freshmen forwards Zach Collins and Killian Tillie extracted the 14th-ranked Zags from their offensive lethargy and GU’s defense did a pretty good imitation of San Diego State’s nationally acclaimed ‘D’.
The Zags (2-0) rolled up a 15-point halftime advantage and kept on adding during a convincing 69-48 victory in front of a full house of 6,000 Monday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Both offenses were a tad sleepy with the 9 p.m. start. San Diego State (1-1) missed its first six shots before Jeremy Hemsley connected with 16:25 left. Valentine Izundu was called for goal-tending on Przemek Karnowski’s shot and GU was on the scoreboard on its next possession.
The Aztecs eased in front 6-2 but it was all Gonzaga from there. Collins struck for a three-point play and the Zags were off on a 15-2 run. Tillie and Josh Perkins, in his first game back from a two-game suspension, hit 3-pointers.
“They play with energy, they play with poise, dive for loose balls, they rebound,” Karnowski said of the freshmen forwards. “I can go on and on.”
Gonzaga coach Mark Few’s Monday morning started off a bit like the Zags’ play offensively in the opening minutes. He took Stella, the family’s German Shepherd, for a walk. When Few went to throw one of Stella’s toys he inadvertently hit his cell phone in his coat pocket. The phone swung up and opened up a gash just above his right eye.
“Like a one-in-a-million shot,” said Few, who needed five stitches to close the cut.
The odds of Gonzaga manhandling San Diego State weren’t quite in that neighborhood, but few would have predicted the Zags would lead by as many as 30 points.
“They’ve been injured,” Few said. “When they get all their pieces back they’re going to have a special year. They’ll probably win 25 or more games and be a single-digit seed.”
Gonzaga found holes in that defense that ranked in the top three in scoring defense the last three seasons. Jordan Mathews drained a 3-pointer and Johnathan Williams dunked home a nifty Karnowski pass.
At the other end, San Diego State had no answers against Gonzaga’s defense. The Aztecs made just six field goals in the first half and didn’t register an assist.
“We lost our mental capacity to think at the offensive level,” Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said.
The Aztecs scored the first five points of the second half but Mathews restored the lead with three rapid-fire 3-pointers.
“I missed a couple early and the guys were like, ‘Keep shooting,’ ” said Mathews, who connected on five 3-pointers and scored 17 points. “Those are shots we shoot in practice, eventually they’ll fall.”
Gonzaga’s lead ballooned to 26 with 11 minutes remaining after Collins’ jump hook over a smaller defender.
“I was coming off kind of a rough game (against Utah Valley),” said Collins, who finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. “I just wanted to give an energy boost. Killian, he’s just a glue guy. He does a little of everything.”
Gonzaga went to a zone defense for long stretches and the Aztecs couldn’t find the mark from the perimeter. San Diego State was just 1 of 12 3-pointers in the opening half and 5 of 21 overall.
San Diego State endured a 9-minute, 28-second scoring drought as Gonzaga’s lead grew to 61-31.
Nigel Williams-Goss added 10 points and eight rebounds. Tillie contributed eight points and 10 boards.