Gonzaga may have set unofficial season highs for smiles, high-fives and bench celebrations Saturday.
The Zags dominated from tip to buzzer in a stress-free 86-48 drubbing of San Francisco in front of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center. In a season packed with tight games and double-digit victories that often carried some level of anxiety, Gonzaga kept the throttle floored and posted its most lopsided WCC win.
GU never trailed, led by 17 at half and by as many as 41 in the second half.
“A lot of stress comes from ourselves not putting two halves together,” freshman point guard Josh Perkins said. “This was probably the first game we’ve put together 40 minutes. It feels good. Let’s keep doing it.”
The Zags had five players in double figures for the first time since six scored at least 10 points against Mount St. Mary’s on Nov. 21. Silas Melson, Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis each had 15 points. Perkins added 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. Bryan Alberts chipped in 10 points.
Gonzaga (17-5, 9-2 WCC) beat San Francisco (11-10, 5-6) for the ninth straight time. The Zags rallied late in regulation en route to a 102-94 overtime win over the Dons in early January. The rematch was a mismatch.
The Zags scored the first eight points and led by 14 midway through the first half after Melson’s back-to-back 3-pointers. USF was within six but Gonzaga closed the half with an 11-0 run for a 39-22 advantage. The Zags continued to pull away in the second half.
“We played a good 40 minutes, not just the first half,” said Sabonis, who logged just 16 minutes, his playing time cut short by two fouls early in the opening half. “It was fun; everyone got to play. I’m happy I got a bit of rest.”
Gonzaga poured in 15 3-pointers, one shy of its season high. Two days ago, the Zags drilled 13 treys against Santa Clara. Melson, who had made three 3s in 10 previous conference games, knocked down 5 of 9.
“It felt a lot better than what it has been feeling,” Melson said. “I’ve just been staying in it mentally. I know I’m a better shooter than what I’ve been displaying all season. I’ve been in the gym a lot more than I usually am because I want to get my shot where it usually is.”
Perkins hit 3 of 5 beyond the arc. Alberts, who leads the team at 52.3 percent, and Eric McClellan both nailed two 3s. Wiltjer was 3 of 7 from long distance.
“We’re in here repping it out,” said Perkins, who has made 56.3 percent of his 3s in conference. “It’s just confidence. Seeing it go in in games is different than seeing it go in in practice.”
Gonzaga held the Dons, averaging 87 points over their last nine games, scoreless in the final 5:10 of the first half. USF’s 48 points was its season low and the lowest scored by a Zags opponent.
Guard Uche Ofoegbu paced USF with 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting but his teammates were just 13 of 51 from the field. Devin Watson, who had 33 points in the first meeting, finished with 11 and picked up a technical foul in the second half. Ronnie Boyce, who had 20 points against GU in January, scored two.
“The last game (against USF) three dudes went for a career high,” Melson said. “We kind of took that personally and tried to take away their strengths.”
Gonzaga finished with 17 assists and just six turnovers. Wiltjer and Kyle Dranginis each had four assists. Dranginis grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.
“They really hunkered down on our posts,” said coach Mark Few, whose team is on the road for four consecutive games. “The guards made the right reads, came off the ball screen in attack mode and stepped up and shot the ball like they’re capable of.”
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