Rui Hachimura needed only to look into the crowd to find extra motivation Monday night.
The junior forward’s mom, sister and mom’s friend traveled from Japan to watch Hachimura’s past two games. Hachimura’s mom accompanied him on his recruiting trip to Gonzaga and she also attended the 2017 Final Four.
This was his sister’s first visit to Spokane.
“So I have to play good,” smiled Hachimura, who did just that with a team-high 22 points as the seventh-ranked Zags handled CSU Bakersfield 89-54 in front of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
They posed for pictures outside of Gonzaga’s locker room following an easier-than-expected win over the Roadrunners (8-5).
“I really wanted them to come, especially my sister because she’s never been here before,” said Hachimura, who saw his family in September during the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers in Tokyo. “This was the first time (his mom) was here for games. I think this is their last time (to see him this season). They leave (today).”
Hachimura joined a long list of contributors in Gonzaga’s final nonconference game. Jeremy Jones came off the bench to supply 11 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season.
Zach Norvell Jr. and Brandon Clarke had 16 points apiece while Josh Perkins chipped in 10. Norvell added five assists and three steals.
Both teams employed a full-court press in the opening half, but Gonzaga’s was more effective. After leading 6-2 early, the Roadrunners turned the ball over five times in a 2-minute span, leading to a Norvell Jr. layup and a Hachimura steal and dunk.
Jones and Hachimura took turns at the top of the zone, forcing the Roadrunners to deal with a long, athletic defender. On one occasion, CSUB broke the press but Jones drew a charging foul in the lane on Darrin Person.
Jones entered when Perkins picked up his second foul with 17 minutes left. The senior forward had a pair of tip-ins, a 3-pointer and a three-point play, finishing with a twisting 4-footer after yet another CSUB turnover.
“When we watched these guys on film, they were a lot like Illinois from a defensive perspective,” Jones said. “They didn’t really box out, so I knew there would be opportunities on the ‘O’ boards.”
Gonzaga’s offense was disjointed at times against the Roadrunners’ aggressive defense, but it was entirely opportunistic. The Zags piled up 16 first-half points after 11 CSUB turnovers. Their drives inside and feeds to the post often resulted in fouls and they made 11 of 14 at the line. They also cashed in on six offensive rebounds for another dozen points.
“I feel like we found ways to score, even with all their pressure,” said Clarke, who had seven boards, four assists and two steals.
Freshman guard Jarkel Joiner scored CSUB’s last 10 points to keep the Roadrunners in it, but Clarke’s 12-foot bank shot on a dish from Jones beat the buzzer, giving Gonzaga a 43-24 halftime lead.
The Zags didn’t slow Joiner down at the outset of the second half, but they did outscore him. Joiner struck for nine points against several different defenders in the first 7 minutes. It wasn’t enough to keep pace with Norvell’s trio of 3-pointers, Clarke’s six points inside and Perkins’ five points as the Zags took a 65-37 lead with 11:45 remaining.
The Roadrunners’ effort never waned. They kept working the offensive glass – finishing with 15 – and pressed most of the way. Their physical approach probably left a few Zags with bruises.
“That’s a tough, hard-nosed team that really if you look at their results plays everybody tough, and it’s tough to get separation on them,” Zags coach Mark Few said. “There were times when it wasn’t pretty, but I liked our resilience.”
Two of the biggest ovations came in the final 80 seconds. Jones received a warm sendoff when he exited. It was even louder when walk-on Matthew Lang connected on Gonzaga’s 10th 3-pointer with 24 seconds left, sending fans home with a coupon for a free taco.
Gonzaga opens WCC play at home against Santa Clara on Saturday.
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