Nigel Williams-Goss and Johnathan Williams watched from the bench last year when Saint Mary’s beat Gonzaga in the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The two transfers were required to sit out after transferring from other schools. Jordan Mathews was busy playing for Cal a year ago before joining the Zags as a graduate transfer.
Those three took the lead role as No. 5 Gonzaga handled No. 21 Saint Mary’s 79-56 Saturday in front of 6,000 noisy fans. GU (17-0, 5-0 WCC) took over first place in the conference and remains the only unbeaten team in Division I.
Saint Mary’s dropped to 15-2, 5-1.
Williams-Goss had a team-high 19 points and six assists. Williams, who transferred from Missouri, had 14 points, five rebounds and five blocked shots. Mathews added 16 points.
“I talked to (Williams) before the game, I said, ‘Look we sat on the bench, we watched them come in here and kind of take the air out of the building,’ ” said Williams-Goss, who played his first two seasons at Washington. “I said, ‘Not this year. It’s time to do what we came here to do.’
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way he played.”
Mathews knocked down four 3-pointers and had no turnovers in 32 minutes.
“It’s going to be someone’s night every night,” he said. “We’ve got 8-9 guys that can do that.”
“We’re transfers (Williams-Goss, Williams and Mathews). It’s my first time experiencing the rivalry. It’s good to start out on a good note.”
Two big Gonzaga runs turn the tide
There were two turning points in this game, one that gave Gonzaga a comfortable lead and a final burst that put the Gaels away.
Gonzaga created separation with a 12-0 run in the closing minutes to take a 43-34 halftime lead. Mathews started it with a 3-pointer and Williams threw down a dunk after a Silas Melson steal.
“I was telling the guys, I’ve never heard the Kennel that loud,” freshman center Zach Collins said, “especially when J3 got that breakaway. That was insane.”
Melson swished a 12-footer and Collins maneuvered inside for a three-point play and another field goal on the low block.
Also today: Take a look at Saturday’s game by the numbers
Later, with the Gaels down just six, Gonzaga closed out the game on a 21-4 run. Saint Mary’s went 6:30 without scoring and GU rarely missed at the other end.
“We had several stretches, one late in the first half where we really started defending with some passion and choking some things off, and again in probably the last 12 minutes of the game,” Zags coach Mark Few said.
Perkins leaves game with back injury, returns
Sophomore guard Josh Perkins left the game late in the first half after tweaking his back. He landed awkwardly and quickly ran off the court for the locker room with the training staff.
“His back has been bothering him,” Few said. “He came down weird, kind of twisted. He wasn’t feeling great at halftime. It was kind of courageous of him to come out and give us those minutes in the second half.”
Perkins didn’t start the second half but he came on to play 10 minutes. He finished with four points, three rebounds and two assists in 16 minutes.
Asked if his back loosened up in the second half, Perkins said, “A little bit, enough to go in there and give a little spark. We’ll work with it this week, I’ll be all right.”
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