Gonzaga led by 18 points late in the first half and there was no real threat of a South Dakota comeback, but Bulldogs coach Mark Few wanted a timeout.
The visiting Coyotes had missed their last two shots, but both were open 3-point looks. Few offered his players a not-so-gentle reminder about the importance of guarding the top perimeter shooters, one of the main points in the scouting report.
“He said he doesn’t want us to be a good team, he wants us to be an excellent team,” said junior forward Sam Dower, who wasn’t the guilty defender. “He doesn’t want us to mess up on things like that because when we play a better team we could potentially lose if we blow assignments.”
The 19th-ranked Bulldogs (3-0) got an easy win – 96-58 in front of an announced crowd of 6,000, though there were some rare empty seats – and some teachable moments Sunday at the McCarthey Athletic Center. South Dakota dropped to 1-3.
“We’re striving to reach the standards in our locker room that we hold ourselves to,” Few said. “I didn’t feel like we were doing that, even up 20.”
Compared to its first two routs to open the season, Gonzaga was at times a little carefree with the ball with 16 turnovers and it occasionally lost track of shooters as the Coyotes made 10 of 28 from long distance, 5 of 11 by Casey Kasperbauer. The Bulldogs made just 4 of 15 free throws.
But they still did a number of things efficiently as 10 players cracked the scoring column. Elias Harris finished with a career-high 18 rebounds to go with 16 points. He had 13 boards in the first half; South Dakota had 10. Przemek Karnowski made 9 of 10 shots, including a couple of soft-touch jump hooks, and scored 20 points in 19 minutes. Gary Bell Jr. had 16 points and six rebounds. Sam Dower finished with 12 points and nine boards and Kevin Pangos chipped in 10 points and six assists.
“The kids inside, from the starters to the bench players, physically we just couldn’t push and shove with them,” South Dakota coach Dave Boots said. “Even when we tried to double down it was tough to get to them, and they still stepped through us.”
Gonzaga, which gave up 18 offensive rebounds to West Virginia, yielded just four to South Dakota and won the boards 58-24.
“I asked (Harris), ‘Can I have some rebounds?’ and he was like, ‘Naw,’ ” joked forward Guy Landry Edi, who collected six rebounds.
“That was a great effort from him. From the get-go, I saw he was ready to go.”
Harris had a double-double – the 22nd of his career – with 4 minutes left in the first half.
“It’s been a little tough statistically because we’ve been in three 30-point games and we’ve also protected him with fouls,” Few said. “His rebounds-per-minute is how he needs to be judged.”
Gonzaga made 55.3 percent from the field, its third straight game above 50 percent. The Bulldogs made eight 3-pointers – two each by Bell, Pangos and David Stockton – and scored 62 points in the paint.
“The difficulty with this game is the shots came pretty easy,” Few said. “It had to be a little bit of turning down some (shots) and not taking the first available one, which is hard. The guys we put in there can score.”
Gonzaga faces Clemson in the first round of the Old Spice Classic on Thursday. Junior forward Kelly Olynyk will return after missing the first three games for an unspecified violation of the Student Code of Conduct.
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