Season openers usually produce an abundance of good and bad and Gonzaga’s rout of Texas Southern filled both categories.
“We’ve got a lot of new guys, a lot of new faces, so you kind of expect a lot of bumps in the road,” senior guard Silas Melson said after Gonzaga’s 97-69 victory, “You want to be at your best in March and April, not right now.”
Pats on the back have been handed out and the to-do list formulated as the Zags turn their attention to Howard on Tuesday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The bottom line is the Zags won by 29 against a Texas Southern team favored to win its conference and make the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five seasons.
Five Zags reached double figures, led by Josh Perkins’ 20 points. Killian Tillie and reserve center Jacob Larsen each had nine points. Rui Hachimura had 11 points to lead the bench’s 29-point contribution.
“Kind of a microcosm of the team,” Zags coach Mark Few said of Hachimura. “He had some good moments and some bad moments.”
The Zags had turnover issues (14), most coming in the first half (11). Turnovers haven’t been a problem through the preseason, the Texas A&M scrimmage and the exhibition win over College of Idaho.
“We were just disappointed in kind of how soft we were,” Few said. “They were tipping it from us and taking it from us. We called them out on it and they did a good job of taking much better care of ball (in the second half).”
There will probably be more reminders as the Zags prepare for Howard. The Bison, similar to the Tigers, rely on a backcourt that has the freedom to apply dribble pressure and a green light from beyond the 3-point arc. They also play an aggressive zone defense.
Howard hung tough with Indiana on Sunday, falling 86-77. The Bison lost to Washington, D.C., rival George Washington 84-75 in their season opener.
The Bison, picked to finish eighth in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, feature freshman point guard RJ Cole. He’s averaging 25 points and seven assists. He’s done the majority of his damage on 3-pointers (7 of 15) and at the free-throw line (17 of 20). He’s just 6 of 23 on 2-pointers.
The Bison made 13 of 34 3-pointers, including eight 3s in the second half to keep things interesting against Indiana. Reserve guard Kyle Foster attempted 11 3s, one from at least 27 feet, and scored 16 points.
Sophomore wing Charles Williams, who scored 21 points in the opener, had an off shooting night against the Hoosiers (4 of 15, 1 of 9 3-pointers, nine points). Williams was the MEAC Rookie of the Year last season.