Gonzaga got better as the game went along, overcoming a slow start to pull away from Yale 86-71 in Friday’s season opener at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The Zags trailed 16-6 at the first media timeout but came out of the break with 10 consecutive points. GU took a 47-42 lead at half as Ryan Nembhard and Braden Huff each contributed 10 points.
Gonzaga stretched its lead to double digits early in the second half on Anton Watson’s layup and dunk. The Zags led by as many as 21.
Huff provided a big spark off the bench with 19 points and nine rebounds. Nembhard finished with 16 points and seven assists. Nolan Hickman (15 points), Graham Ike (11) and Watson (11) gave GU five players in double figures. Watson pulled down a team-high 12 rebounds.
Gonzaga’s probable starting wing Steele Venters suffered a season-ending torn ACL in practice earlier this week. Freshman Dusty Stromer started and contributed eight points in 28 minutes.
19:41 – GU 2, Yale 0: Zags win the tip and Ike gets the first points of the season on a layup.
16:26 – Yale 16, GU 6: Yale comes out hot, hitting 6-of-7 from the field to take a 10-point lead. Nembhard is 0-of-4 for the Zags, who have given up two turnovers.
11:41 – Yale 21, GU 18: Zags tighten up on defense and pull back into it at the U12 media timeout.
Nembhard gets a pair of layups, while freshmen Stromer and Huff each hit 3s for GU. Both teams are 7-of-15 from the field with two 3-pointers. GU has four turnovers, though, while Yale has one.
6:46 – GU 24, Yale 23: Stromer checks out with two fouls and Yeo comes in and misses his first two attempts. Hickman leads the Zags with eight points, while Ike adds six.
Yale on a 2-minute scoring drought.
3:41 – GU 36, Yale 33: Gregg and Huff nail back-to-back 3s and the Zags retake the lead at the U4 media timeout. Huff making a strong debut for the Zags, but to 10 points with two 3-pointers.
Both teams made their last three attempts from the field.
0:49 – GU 46, Yale 40: Nembhard hits a 3-pointer to go up to 10 points in the half and Hickman checks out for Krajnovic, who becomes the fourth Zag to make their college debut tonight for GU.
Gonzaga battled back from an early 10-point deficit to take a 47-42 lead over Yale in a telling first 20 minutes of the season.
The Zags are lacking depth in the backcourt and relied on Nembhard and Hickman to play nearly all of the first half. The frontcourt is deep, though, and the four-man post rotation of Ike, Watson, Gregg and Huff provided solid minutes for GU.
Huff and Nembhard lead all scorers with 10 points apiece, while Hickman adds eight, Ike has seven and Gregg has six. GU shot 49% from the field and went 5 for 7 on 3-pointers (Huff 2, Gregg, Stromer, Nembhard).
16:48 – GU 53, Yale 42: Watson makes a layup, then slams a break-away dunk on the next possession to give the Zags a 6-0 run. Yale calls for a timeout.
Watson up to seven points and six rebounds for the Zags. Huff leads with 12 points, adding to his stellar debut.
14:27 – GU 55, Yale 46: Stromer gets a steal and finds Nembhard for a layup. Later, Huff is called for a foul at the U16 media timeout.
Huff will need to be careful in the next stretch, as he came in when Ike picked up his third foul.
11:12 – GU 64, Yale 51: Huff continues his breakout came with a basket and a foul at the U12 media timeout. He’s up to a team-high 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
Before that, Hickman hit back-to-back shots, bringing his total to 13 points. Balanced offense tonight as the Zags pull away with a 17-9 advantage in the second half.
7:41 – GU 72, Yale 59: Ike breaks a short cold spell by the Zags and Hickman is called for his third foul at the U8 media timeout.
Yale still hanging around, but will need a strong run of 3-point shooting to get back into it.
5:04 – GU 80, Yale 59: Nembhard caps a 10-point run with a layup to give the Zags their largest lead of the night. GU running away with this one late.
0:06 – GU 86, Yale 71: Yale closes with a dunk, but the Zags come away with an impressive win featuring strong debuts by their newcomers.
Gonzaga suffered a major loss before it played a game this season.
Transfer guard Steele Venters, who figured to start and play a key role for the Zags this year, went out with a season-ending injury at practice this week. Now, GU’s depth will be tested in its season-opener.
The No. 11 Bulldogs host Yale tonight at 6 p.m. in the McCarthey Athletic Center. The game will be broadcast on KHQ and Root, also available to stream on ESPN+ outside the region.
Gonzaga will likely turn to newcomers to replace Venters in the starting five, potentially true freshman Dusty Stromer, who had a solid outing in the Zags exhibition win over Lewis-Clark State.
GU won’t have an easy opener. Yale was predicted to win the Ivy League, after tying with Princeton for first place a season ago. The Zags are favored by 12 points, according to vegasinsider.com.
Yale won its opener over Vassar 102-53.
Gonzaga won the only previous meeting against Yale 70-59 on Dec. 28, 1991 in Spokane.
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