If you had Josh Perkins’ first dunk coming in the second half of his 128th career game at Gonzaga, take a bow.
Perkins made a steal, raced down court and kinda sorta forced the ball over the rim, one of many highlights in No. 8 Gonzaga’s 89-55 blowout over UT Arlington on Tuesday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
It went into the official stats as a dunk. It also went into the books as a technical foul as Perkins shoved a Mavericks player whom he felt undercut him as he landed.
The senior point guard left the game to some needling from his teammates on the bench. Later in the locker room, several Zags stuck around to hear Perkins’ description of the play.
Perkins took a timeout to watch a video replay and made his call: “Technical,” he cracked. “That’s a technical 100 percent of the time.”
Perkins termed it a “baby dunk,” and pledged to deliver a no-doubter in the future.
“I would say so,” said forward Brandon Clarke, who knows a thing or two about dunking. “His fingers grazed the rim and the ball went in. It was a baby dunk.”
One thing the eighth-ranked Zags could all agree on: After three-plus weeks of tough, tight games against high-level competition, they needed one that wasn’t hanging in the balance in crunch time.
“Refreshing,” said wing Corey Kispert, who battled foul trouble throughout but still had 12 points. “Coach (Mark) Few said we haven’t won in 10 days (actually 13) and that’s kind of a rarity around here.”
It wasn’t quite a rout from start to finish. Early on, Perkins drilled a 3-pointer when UT Arlington switched to a zone defense. The Mavericks went back to man on the next series, and Perkins stepped around a screen and drilled another 3, and the Zags led 14-2.
GU’s inside game took over from there. Filip Petrusev’s personal 5-0 run gave the Zags a 19-5 lead. The margin grew to 32-12 on Joel Ayayi’s layup, but the Mavericks scored the next nine points, helped in part by a pair of Gonzaga turnovers.
The Zags (10-2) closed the half with a 14-5 spurt – Rui Hachimura scored the first seven points and Clarke the last five – to lead 48-30. Both forwards scored 13 first-half points.
Gonzaga players were well aware of defensive and rebounding deficiencies that proved costly in consecutive losses to Tennessee and North Carolina. The Mavericks (3-8) managed just 19 field goals on 27 percent shooting.
“We feel like we got our butt kicked the last couple games on the glass and on the defensive end,” Clarke said. “We kind of took that personal tonight to play with fire.
“It was kind of evident that our defense and rebounding is something we have to work on. That’s going to be really big in conference play.”
Gonzaga rolled up a 53-31 rebounding edge over the visitors from the Sun Belt Conference. UT Arlington, which has lost seven straight, made just 8 of 34 3-point attempts (25.7 percent).
“Exactly what I wanted to see is some guys putting in some effort and energy on defense and also on the glass,” Few said. “Obviously, they’re not North Carolina, but they were the opponent tonight and we did what we needed to do.”
The Zags kept adding to their lead in the second half. UTA was within 57-41 when Hachimura had back-to-back baskets to launch a 13-0 run.
Hachimura, Clarke and Petrusev overpowered UTA’s frontcourt. The Mavericks’ tallest starter in a four-guard lineup was 6-foot-7 Andrew Ibarguen.
Hachimura finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes. Clarke had 17 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Petrusev added 14 points in 17 minutes as GU built a 48-16 advantage in paint points.
The trio connected on 18 of 29 field-goal attempts and 15 of 18 free throws.
Gonzaga didn’t shoot well behind the 3-point line, but it didn’t need to because easy shots were available inside the arc, where the Zags were 25 of 35.
Brian Warren led UTA with 12 points but made just 4 of 17 shots.
The Zags entertain Denver on Friday before taking a short break over Christmas.
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