There are numerous nights when Johnathan Williams is the best big on the floor and some when he’s one of the best bigs in the country.
Same with Killian Tillie, who has recorded three 20-point games.
And then there are nights like Thursday when the two aren’t as productive or as efficient.
In Gonzaga’s last two games, the Zags have turned to Rui Hachimura and the sophomore forward from Japan has finished in the lane and applied foul pressure on the opponent.
Hachimura scored 19 points and Josh Perkins bounced back from one of the roughest outings of his career with one of his best performances to guide the 20th-ranked Zags past Pacific 81-48 in the WCC opener for both teams in front of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Hachimura, coming off a 13-point effort in the loss to San Diego State, didn’t miss a shot until there were 4 minutes remaining. He finished 6 of 8 from the field and made all seven of his free-throw attempts.
“I’m getting more used to it, more comfortable. I understand the system and this offense and this defense,” Hachimura said. “I feel like I’ve been playing good defense.”
Tillie and Williams combined for just two points in the first half on 1-of-9 shooting. To be fair, they were taking quality shots, most within six feet of the hoop, but couldn’t get anything to fall. They did combine for five blocked shots as GU locked up Pacific’s offense.
Still, Gonzaga (11-3) needed some offense to go with its stalwart defense. The Zags went 10-plus minutes with just two field goals before Hachimura drove and banked home a 5-footer. He added three free throws in the final 31 seconds as GU took a 31-21 halftime lead.
“Just trying to find consistency out of that (inside) group,” said coach Mark Few, who pretty much knew what he was getting from the quartet of Przemek Karnowski, Zach Collins, Williams and Tillie last season. “It’s maddening with those inside guys. You literally don’t know who is going to show up and play and who isn’t.”
Hachimura showed up when the Zags needed him against the scrappy Tigers.
“His approach of all our bigs was the best,” Few said. “He was physical, tough, kind of in attack mode and picking the right spots when to attack.”
Perkins was outstanding from the opening tip. The Tigers (5-9) scored the first six points but Perkins and Zach Norvell Jr. responded with 3-pointers.
Perkins had eight points in a 14-2 spurt that pushed Gonzaga in front 20-10. The rest of the half was a slog offensively as the Tigers, unable to hit a 3-pointer, had shot after shot rejected or redirected on drives into the lane. GU went cold from the outside, missing seven straight 3s, before Hachimura closed the half with five straight points.
Perkins scored 11 of his 16 points in the first half. He had four of his five assists in the second half. At one point he was 5 of 8 from the field and the other four starters combined were 5 of 20.
“I owed it to myself and my team to respond like that,” Perkins said. “I didn’t take care of the ball and that’s what they trust me to do as their point guard. I let them down against San Diego State. I had to respond in the first game of league.”
Perkins didn’t commit a turnover in 32 minutes.
“I thought he managed a great game, because it was one of those games that wasn’t easy,” Few said. “He took care of it, hit some timely shots, spread the ball around. And he guarded (Jahlil) Tripp, which was a hard guard.”
Norvell contributed 13 points. Corey Kispert, who has been slowed by a sprained ankle, added 12 points, his first game in double digits since Florida at the PK80.