It was just what Gonzaga needed after a tough stretch of tournament games in Portland and another tough stretch coming up.
A blowout win, restricted minutes for the starters and extended playing time for all 12 available players in a 103-68 rout of Incarnate Word in front of 6,000 Wednesday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
What the Zags didn’t need was the sight of freshman wing Corey Kispert limping off the floor late in the first half with a sprained left ankle. Asked about the severity of the injury, Kispert said he fully intends to play Friday against No. 25 Creighton.
There are a limited number of dates on the calendar to schedule nonconference games. Gonzaga used to play a nonconference game in February in the same week it faced West Coast Conference travel partner Portland, but that opportunity went away a few years ago. GU now faces two games every week during conference play.
“It’s just the way scheduling is,” Zags coach Mark Few said. “You have to cram all these games in at certain times and it’s never perfect. It is, as they say, what it is. We’ll make the best of it and be ready to go on Friday.”
The season isn’t a month old, but the bumps and bruises are already stacking up. Killian Tillie took a hard fall on his hip and elbow at the PK80 in Portland. He still has his left thumb/wrist taped before games. Kispert rolled his right ankle against Florida but played on in the double-overtime thriller.
Johnathan Williams sported ice bags on both knees in the locker room and so did a few of his teammates.
“We don’t have as many bodies as last year,” said Williams, who had three layups in the first 3-plus minutes – one against three defenders – as Gonzaga built a 19-2 lead. “We’ve got guys collecting a lot of minutes. We’ve got to stay on top of things, stay healthy and keep pushing forward.”
Wednesday’s contest against the overmatched visitors from San Antonio was a chance to spread out the playing time. Silas Melson and Josh Perkins each played 20 minutes, the most among the starters. Reserve guard Zach Norvell Jr. had 17 points and five assists in a team-high 28 minutes.
Rui Hachimura produced 18 points in 16 minutes, giving him 38 points in 44 minutes in Gonzaga’s last two games. Perkins didn’t miss a shot – 6 of 6 from the field, four of those 3-pointers – and scored 16 points. He nailed one 3 from 27 feet.
Tillie was on the floor for 15 minutes, just five in the second half.
“It’s part of basketball,” the sophomore forward said. “It’s OK, I can handle it. I can play with it. I just have to warm it up, loosen it up and then it was good.”
The 15th-ranked Zags (6-1) were strong from the opening tip. They broke from a 2-2 tie with 17 consecutive points. UIW (3-3), a member of the Southland Conference, went 5 minutes and 30 seconds between field goals.
Gonzaga’s lead reached 20 with 12:24 left in the first half on Hachimura’s three-point play. It was 30 after Norvell’s tip-in with 16:02 remaining in the second half.
The game fell between a three-game, four-day stretch in Portland and two big nonconference dates: Creighton on Friday and Villanova on Tuesday in New York City.
Gonzaga stayed focused on the task at hand.
“With these types of games, you want to make sure you’re doing the right things and coming out with the mind set to be aggressive and follow scouting report,” Williams said. “I feel like we came out and put it on them right away. We need that, no matter who steps on the court.”
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