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Gonzaga Basketball
Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Domantas Sabonis leads way as Zags cruise past NAU

There were post-up moves, put-back baskets and a dunk. There was a fading hook shot while being hacked.

There were a couple of mid-range jumpers, a nifty pump fake that created a driving layup and even a 3-pointer, though it was erased when he was called for traveling.

Domantas Sabonis showed off his growing offensive game, pouring in a career-high 26 points in 18 minutes of court time to lead No. 10 Gonzaga to an easy 91-52 victory over Northern Arizona in front of 6,000 Wednesday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Sabonis, who came off the bench last season as a freshman, started in GU’s exhibition win over Eastern Oregon and against Pittsburgh last Friday in a contest that was called off after the first half due to unsafe court conditions. He wasn’t in the starting five against NAU but still found time to hit 12 of 13 field-goal attempts and grab seven rebounds.

“It doesn’t make much difference,” said Sabonis, who did start the second half. “But it kind of motivated me more to come out hard. I don’t know why, it just did.”

Sabonis said his back is feeling better after taking a hard fall against Eastern Oregon.

“I feel it,” he said, “but once I warm up it’s good.”

Gonzaga’s big three of Sabonis, senior forward Kyle Wiltjer and senior center Przemek Karnowski combined for 58 points and 23 rebounds as the Zags exploited their size advantage against the Lumberjacks (0-3). Gonzaga outrebounded NAU 53-31 and held a 46-24 edge in points in the paint.

“When (Sabonis) plays like he did, it’s going to be tough for teams to handle him,” NAU coach Jack Murphy said. “He’s a tough cover. He’s an NBA player playing in the WCC.”

NAU, content to pack the lane and entice Gonzaga into taking perimeter shots, was within 31-23 when redshirt freshman Bryan Alberts hit a pair of 3-pointers and Wiltjer added another trey to give GU a 42-27 halftime lead.

“We have tremendous bigs so everybody has to look out for that,” said Alberts, who added another 3-pointer in the second half. “I’m just going to be spotted up and ready to open the court up.”

Said coach Mark Few: “He did it to us 5,000 times in practice last year. That’s what he needs to do for us this year. At the other end, he just plays solid defense and does what we ask him to do. With this team, that’s not a bad thing to have.”

The Zags turned it into a rout with a 31-5 run in the first nine minutes of the second half.

The Lumberjacks made 15 3-pointers and averaged 75.5 points in their first two games. They were limited to 30-percent shooting and made only 3 of 17 beyond the arc. Junior guard Kris Yanku scored a team-high 18 points but committed seven turnovers.

“It was good to just see our guys get going up and down, and get back to playing pretty darn good half-court defense,” Few said. “When we weren’t turning the ball over I thought we were pretty efficient on the offensive end, which is the whole key to winning basketball games.”

Josh Perkins had six assists, Kyle Dranginis five and Alberts three for the Zags, who finished with 18 assists. Perkins had six of GU’s 17 turnovers.

“We just kept playing hard on the defensive end and once we started getting stops it led to some fastbreak points,” Dranginis said. “The offense was flowing a little better. It just takes time to adjust and get everything going.

“We can’t be giving the ball away like that, but the good thing is it’s something we can change.”

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