There was no letdown after a huge season-opening win over No. 6 Kansas on Thursday.
There was no problem with an early tip time – 8 a.m. Pacific. There was no change in the team’s focus or on-court performance after learning that two players were unavailable due to COVID-19 protocols following tests administered after Thursday’s game.
There was another dominating performance by No. 1-ranked Gonzaga, which ran away from Auburn 90-67 Friday at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers, Florida.
“Extremely proud of our guys,” Zags coach Mark Few said. “Kind of mission accomplished down here to be involved in two different kind of games against high-level athletes and obviously we responded with a really short turnaround.
“Man, it was pretty crazy. We had a short meeting around 11 p.m. (Thursday) and up at 7 (a.m.) walking through some stuff in a parking lot.”
That’s a 4 a.m. PT wake-up call, but it didn’t seem to bother the Zags, who raced out to a 16-6 lead in the first 4-plus minutes after Corey Kispert’s 3-pointer.
For the second straight game, the Zags turned it into a track meet at times with their transition game while being equally effective in half-court offense.
Gonzaga leaned on forward Drew Timme (career-high 28 points, 10 rebounds), Kispert (25 points) and guard Jalen Suggs (12 points, six assists), but the list of contributors was lengthy.
Timme put up his second consecutive 17-point first half as Gonzaga led by as many as 17 before settling for a 49-35 edge at the break.
“Just great coaching,” said Timme, who made 11 of 16 shots. “When we execute the offense and we’re really moving the ball and not getting stagnant with it, we feel like we can score almost every time.”
The Zags put on a clinic at the outset of the second half with a 7-0 spurt that put Auburn in a 56-35 hole.
Kispert’s backdoor cut led to a dunk off a pass from Anton Watson. Kispert found open space coming around a screen and drilled one of his four 3-pointers. GU got loose in transition on the next possession, with Watson scoring on a layup after a nice feed from Joel Ayayi.
“Their ability, their guys, their guards and Kispert is a great shooter,” Tigers sophomore guard Allen Flanigan said of Gonzaga’s offense. “They have a lot of guys who can pass and catch and play off the dribble, and the big guy Timme really seals the post guys. When he gets you on his hip, he uses his ability to use shot-fakes and footwork to get his shots up.”
Suggs was at it again, securing a steal, weaving downcourt and scoring on an acrobatic layup while being fouled. Later in the first half, Suggs dunked home a pass from Ayayi.
Gonzaga had 52 paint points (after hanging 62 on Kansas), 23 fastbreak points and 19 second-chance points. The Zags dialed up their transition game at every opportunity.
The Zags, who face No. 15 West Virginia in Indianapolis on Wednesday, were solid at the defensive end, too. They limited Auburn to 37.3% field-goal shooting, including 11 of 35 behind the 3-point line. Few was especially pleased with the Zags winning the boards 44-32 against the athletic Tigers.
Auburn, which doesn’t have a senior on its roster, had nine offensive rebounds but managed just two second-chance points. The Tigers had an even shorter turnaround time than Gonzaga after playing in Thursday’s second game.
“We’re obviously disappointed we didn’t play better, but Gonzaga had a lot to do with that,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “Their two great players, Timme and Kispert, both dominated the game as you would expect. Gonzaga did a great job of making a lot of things look real easy.”
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