With Jalen Suggs in the house, No. 2 Gonzaga picks up 20th win in 89-51 blowout of Pacific
Feb. 10, 2022 Updated Thu., Feb. 10, 2022 at 10 p.m.
Gonzaga guard Julian Strawther dunk past Pacific guard Alphonso Anderson during Thursday night’s West Coast Conference game at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)Buy a print of this photo
Gonzaga didn’t drill any 40-foot bank shots. There were no table-top celebrations, nor any Suggs-esque passes that zipped the length of the floor at warp speed.
But one season after he gave the Bulldogs a moment they’re still savoring 10 months later, Gonzaga repaid the favor to Jalen Suggs, giving its Final Four hero a night he’d been anticipating since he took off a Zags jersey for the final time last April after the national championship game.
Wearing two silver chains, a bright blue shirt and white sunglasses, Suggs soaked up every ounce of a McCarthey homecoming that lasted approximately three hours Thursday night.
He swayed in unison with members of the Kennel Club before tipoff, then spent large chunks of the game taking in the action among them.
He stuck out an arm and flashed three fingers whenever the Zags connected from deep.
He twirled an index finger through the air when Drew Timme converted in the low post, mirroring one of the junior’s trademark celebrations.
He popped out of his baseline seat any time longtime friend and former Minnehaha High teammate Chet Holmgren submitted a highlight play on either end of the floor.
Suggs brought life and energy to the type of West Coast Conference game that’s become routine for No. 2 Gonzaga. The Orlando Magic rookie watched his former teammates race to an easy 89-51 victory against Pacific in front of a sellout crowd at McCarthey Athletic Center – a scene the fifth pick of the NBA draft never experienced during last year’s COVID-impacted season.
During a halftime media session, Suggs, who traveled to Spokane with his mother and father, said he plans to return for Senior Night on Feb. 19 against Santa Clara, will be busy with NBA duties Saturday when the Bulldogs (20-2, 9-0) host No. 22 Saint Mary’s (20-5, 8-2) at 7 p.m. (ESPN2) in the first matchup between two ranked West Coast Conference teams this season.
“Special, special night and so happy and what a great effort for Jalen to get back here and his family and really appreciate the magic, it’s a quick turnaround for him. I think he’s playing (Friday),” GU coach Mark Few said. “You forget he never got that, he never had that in his college career.
“He played in front of empty stands his entire career until we got a little bit at the NCAA Tournament, but it was nothing like that.”
In picking up win No. 20 – something Gonzaga has done every year since 1997-98 – the Bulldogs deployed a level of offensive efficiency that probably looked familiar to Suggs, connecting on 35 of 68 shots (51.5%) from the field while making 11 of 28 (39.3%) from 3-point range.
But it was Gonzaga’s defense that permanently shut the door on Pacific in the second half.
The Tigers, two days removed from nearly pulling off an upset of No. 21 USC, scored just 23 points after halftime, shooting 7 of 28 from the field and 2 of 8 from beyond the 3-point line. The Bulldogs dialed up two 40-point halves to register a seventh WCC victory by at least 30 points and win their 13th consecutive game dating back to a mid-December loss against Alabama.
“I think we had an intensity about us and even though we were up a significant amount, we didn’t just relax,” Few said. “We haven’t done a lot of that, but maybe relaxed just a little bit and let guys get some easy buckets. I don’t think we allowed a lot of easy buckets, if any at all, in the second half.”
Rasir Bolton became the fifth Zag to score at least 20 points in a game this season, posting a season-high 20 while making 8 of 11 shots from the field and connecting on 4 of 6 from the 3-point range. Pacific’s perimeter defenders made a habit of slipping under Gonzaga’s ball screens.
“I think them going under gave me a couple of 3s coming out of the ball screens,” Bolton said. “I think just playing my role, being in open spots where guys can get it to me and just hitting shots.”
Timme had a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double – his third of the season – and at one point blew Suggs a kiss in the crowd after converting one of his six field goals.
Two other Gonzaga players finished in double figures with Julian Strawther scoring 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and Holmgren adding 14 on 5-of-7 shooting. Holmgren and Timme had two blocks apiece.
“When guys like (Bolton) just don’t miss and just have the ultimate sniper, it’s just so much fun to play,” Timme said. “We’re all moving the rock, everyone’s shooting, passing, it’s great.”
Pacific was led by Alphonso Anderson, a former North Idaho College standout, who had 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting to go with eight rebounds and five turnovers.
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