The 6-foot-9 transfer from Wyoming got off to a fast start for the second straight game, but this time he kept it going the rest of the game. The big man piled up 12 points and 10 rebounds in 15 first-half minutes. He wasn’t bothered by Syracuse 7-4 center Naheem McLeod, who picked up three fouls early in just 8 minutes. Ike’s final stat line: 16 points, 14 boards, eight fouls drawn, five turnovers, four steals in 25 minutes.
The 6-foot-8 forward was a force from the opening tip as Gonzaga took control quickly against Syracuse. Watson scored on a transition layup to boost GU’s lead to 7-0. He made his first five field-goal attempts, including a pair of dunks. He had 10 points, six rebounds and two assists in the opening half as Gonzaga led 39-25. Watson finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds, the latter equaling his career high.
Syracuse kept creeping closer in the second half, but the Zags’ Nolan Hickman – he could have easily been one of our difference-makers – stepped up with timely baskets. The junior guard scored on a pretty drive and finish in the lane to restore Gonzaga’s lead to eight with 8:55 remaining. Syracuse kept the pressure on with an acrobatic layup by Judah Mintz, but Hickman drilled a 3-pointer in response. Watson’s offensive rebound led to Ben Gregg’s corner 3-pointer and the Zags led by 11 with 7:23 remaining and cruised to the finish line.