The final minutes
Gonzaga, as it has done since 2003, began the regular season with a 97-69 win over Texas Southern.
It was the veterans who led the way as Josh Perkins scored 20 points, including hitting six of 10 3-point shots. Johnathan Williams added 16 and eight rebounds, second to Killian Tillie’s 12 caroms.
Demontrae Jefferson led the way for the Tigers with 20 point while playing all 40 minutes.
As can be expected in a blowout, the final 8 minutes or so, the level of plays seemed to deteriorate. The whistles were more common, the interruptions came more often and the offenses struggled.
No matter for GU, which led 86-60 at the final media timeout.
Gonzaga had five players in double figures, including 10 from the freshman Kispert and 11 off the bench from Hachimura.
The second half
They seemed more engaged in taking care of the ball after halftime, turning it over just once – by Perkins – in the first 5 minutes. That didn’t help the Bulldogs pull away, though, as Texas Southern actually outscored GU 8-6 in the stretch.
But the Tigers’ big, Reed, picked up his fourth foul and sat.
The Zags unveiled a 2-3 zone midway through the second half, giving Texas Southern something new to attack and future opponents something to prepare for.
With 7:18 left to play, Gonzaga led 73-56 though the fouls were piling up. Tillie, who had a game-high 12 rebounds, also picked up his fourth foul and had to sit.
A pre-halftime explosion
One of Gonzaga’s trademarks over the Mark Few years has been offensive runs. Even as the Zags’ defense has improved the last few seasons, the ability to string points together has remained a constant.
The Bulldogs did it early in the half and they did it again before intermission, outscoring Texas Southern 12-2 in the final 2:43. That helped build a 52-31 edge.
Perkins contributed mightily with two more 3-pointers and Tillie capped it with a flying dunk as time ran down.
Gonzaga shot 58 percent in the half, held the Tigers to 33 percent and outscored them from beyond the arc by 24 points.
The offset for GU was the number of first-half turnovers. The Zags had 11, with Perkins the largest culprit with three.
Jones returns from injury to play in opener
Gonzaga was back at full strength – or close to it – for its season opener against Texas Southern on Friday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Junior forward Jeremy Jones, who missed last week’s exhibition victory over College of Idaho with a right wrist/forearm injury, entered the game roughly midway through the first half and immediately scored on a drive down the right-side of the lane. He also had a pair of assists as Gonzaga led 52-31 at half.
Jones wore protective padding on his right wrist and forearm.
Freshman guard Jesse Wade, who has been sidelined by recurring shoulder issues, was also available but didn’t play in the first half.
— Jim Meehan
A slow start, then a run
Texas Southern’s quickness gave the Zags trouble early, as they finished at the rim off the jump and often over the first five minutes. The Tigers hit five of their first eight shots, most around the rim.
Gonzaga countered with a mixture of 3-pointers – one each by Josh Perkins and Johnathan Williams – and offensive putbacks. At the first media timeout, GU led, 11-10.
The Zags came out of the timeout with nine consecutive points, capping a 13-0 run.
The run was keyed by a smaller quicker lineup, with Rui Hachimura and Zach Norvell coming off the bench to spark the defense. Texas Southern has missed its last seven shots and hasn’t scored in more than 4 minutes.
At the 12-minute timeout, Gonzaga leads 19-10.
The Bulldogs run gave them some separation, which continued throughout the middle of the first half.
Demontrea Jefferson continued to give Perkins trouble with his quickness, but the Zags’ help defense improved, leading to a 29-18 lead.
And Perkins hit three 3-pointers to more than offset Jefferson’s dribble drive attacks.
The Zags could have put the game out of reach, but failed to take care of the ball. They turned it over three consecutive possessions heading into the under-4-minute timeout.
There was an interesting exchange with a bit more than 5 minutes left before the half as Williams and Texas Southern 7-footer, Trayvon Reed, exchanged words.
Reed had blocked an off-balanced shot from Williams and said something about it.
Williams responded, they bumped and then Reed did a flex. A minute later, Reed tried to go through Williams for an offensive rebound, picked up his third foul and sat down. He did not flex.
Gonzaga announces starting five
It’s not much of a surprise Gonzaga has changed its lineup from the one it started in last week’s exhibition. But who stayed in may be.
Rui Hachimura started at the power forward spot against College of Idaho, as Killian Tillie was dealing with some injuries. With Tillie back tonight in the opener, Hachimura moves to the bench and freshman Corey Kispert, the 6-foot-6 wing, remains as a starter.
Welcome to the 2017-18 basketball season. The year that is next year for Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs are coming off their first appearance in the Final Four. National runners-up. A 37-2 record. The best season in school history.
The open this season at home against … Texas Southern. OK, it isn’t Creighton or Ohio State or Villanova, schools also on Gonzaga’s non-conference schedule this year.
It’s the Tigers from Houston, road warriors coached by former Indiana mentor Mike Davis. They play one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation, all of them this year on the road. The Tigers don’t have a home game until Jan. 1.
It’s a way for Gonzaga to ease into the season a bit, to find out how this group of Zags, minus stars like Przemek Karnowski, Zach Collins and Nigel Williams-Goss, will meld together.
Will Johnathan Williams III blossom as the No. 1 inside option? Will Josh Perkins run the offense with precision? Which newcomer will make the largest impact?
We start finding out tonight.
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