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Gonzaga Basketball

Big numbers for Gonzaga’s four bigs against overmatched Eastern Oregon

With no defenders nearby, Graham Ike eyeballed the rim and swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Later in the first half, a similar scenario unfolded for the 6-foot-9 forward.

Ike was 3 of 12 on 3s in 45 career games at Wyoming, but he’s 2 for 2 in his first two games as a Zag.

“Felt pretty good,” Ike said. “That’s something we work on here, definitely.”

Gonzaga and Eastern Oregon was a mismatch from the opening tip and nowhere was that reflected more than the gaudy stats put up by the Zags’ four bigs, particularly in the first half before they took a seat on the bench for the majority of the final 20 minutes in Tuesday’s 123-57 nonconference blowout.

There were times when the Mountaineers, an NAIA team from La Grande, Oregon, had a 6-9 forward on the court, but its next-biggest player was 6-3, tasked with defending 6-8 Anton Watson or 6-10 Ben Gregg.

The results were predictable. Ike, Watson, Gregg and Braden Huff, who continued an impressive start to his redshirt freshman season, combined for 48 first-half points as GU led 63-30.

“I think we kind of knew what we were going to get inside,” Watson said. “It’s easy when you can feed him (Ike) and get easy buckets in the post.”

By halftime, the Zags had piled up 40 paint points, but the team’s five 3-pointers were also produced by the frontcourt. In addition to Ike’s pair of 3s, Watson, Gregg and Huff each added one.

“He (Ike) has actually shot them really well in practice, so it looked good to me,” Zags head coach Mark Few said. “It’s obviously something we’ll continue to see if we can grow. Right now our bigs across the board are shooting the ball really well from (3).”

The final numbers for the four: 78 points, 35 of 45 from the field (77.8%), 5 of 9 on 3-pointers, 3 of 5 at the foul line, 29 rebounds, six assists, two turnovers, 65 minutes.

Ike made 11 of 12 shots and finished with 25 points and 11 boards in 17-plus minutes.

“It’s good for Graham, again, to just keep getting conditioning and reps, game reps, since he missed last year (with a foot injury) and a lot of practices in the fall,” Few said.

Watson was 9 of 12 from the field and added 20 points and six rebounds. Huff hit 11 of 14 shots and scored 23 points in just 14 minutes. Gregg added 10 points and six rebounds in 14:32.

“We go at it every day,” Ike said of the four bigs in practice. “Just trying to make each other better so it’s easier for us out there in the game.”

Huff has averaged 21 points in Gonzaga’s two wins. He’s connected on 18 of 24 field-goal attempts and 3 of 5 behind the 3-point arc.

“Just the way he works, it’s obviously showing in the game,” Ike said of Huff’s performances thus far. “Great player, does great things out there.”

The competition level rises considerably for Gonzaga and its frontcourt against No. 2 Purdue – and reigning player of the year Zach Edey – on Monday in the opening round of the Maui Invitational in Honolulu.