It was a nice night for Gonzaga’s bench on the court and an unforgettable night for senior Andrew Sorenson and his teammates in the locker room afterward.
Austin Daye poured in a career-high 25 points and the bench contributed 32 more as the Bulldogs thumped San Francisco 85-51 in front of 6,000 Saturday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The Bulldogs then retreated to their locker room for their customary postgame address from Director of Athletic Relations Steve Hertz, who turned the floor over to assistant coach Tommy Lloyd.
For years, Lloyd has run the team’s walk-on tryouts. Sorenson was cut as a freshman, but made the squad the following season. The fan favorite and former Kennel Clubber has played 93 minutes the last three-plus seasons.
“Tommy gets up and says a couple of things and then he says, ‘From now on, Andrew is going to be on full-ride scholarship,’ ” Sorenson said. “I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. I lost it.”
He was still teary-eyed later when he hugged and thanked head coach Mark Few outside the locker room.
“You’ve been the best,” Few told Sorenson.
Sorenson left the locker room a few minutes later to inform his dad, who was in attendance.
“I had to leave the room. I was literally seconds away from crying,” senior guard Jeremy Pargo said. “He works hard in class. He goes hard in practice every day. He does a lot of things that nobody sees and he deserves what he’s getting.”
The Bulldogs (12-4, 3-0) took care of business on the court as Daye struck for 18 points in the first half, helping GU to a 43-29 lead. Daye has been plagued by first-half foul trouble, but there was no chance of that happening against USF. He picked up his first foul at the 15-minute mark and Few summoned Micah Downs.
“We just decided we needed to get him out with one, much like we used to do with Ronny (Turiaf),” Few said.
Daye scored from long distance (3 of 5 3-pointers), with midrange jumpers and in the paint. Daye, Josh Heytvelt and Ira Brown each had nine rebounds as the Bulldogs, up 20-19 at halftime, won the boards 46-27.
“I did a good job of finding open spaces in the zone and my teammates did a great job of finding me,” Daye said.
The Bulldogs missed their first six 3-pointers before Downs and Daye drained back-to-back 3s. The Zags quickly erased a 14-4 deficit with a 28-7 run.
“A team that talented, they’re going to figure it out with time, and as a coach you have to have other pitches to throw at them,” USF first-year coach Rex Walters said. “We don’t right now.”
Downs, who hadn’t reached double figures the last six games, finished with 15 points. Reserves Brown (seven points), Demetri Goodson (three points, four assists), Will Foster (four points, five rebounds) and Sorenson (three points) all chipped in.
“We had a really good effort from the bench, and once we did that the rest of the guys followed and picked up the intensity,” Downs said.
Gonzaga had just two turnovers in the first half and eight for the game. San Francisco (8-11, 0-4) made 32.1 percent of its shots and had just six second-half field goals. Standout forward Dior Lowhorn had a team-high 15 points – five less than his average – in 26 minutes.
Sorenson capped the contest with a 3-pointer with 2:29 left.
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