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Recap and highlights: No. 11 Gonzaga controls the paint, beats Syracuse 76-57 in Maui Invitational

By Theo Lawson The Spokesman-Review

HONOLULU – Gonzaga hoped to correct its perimeter-shooting issues after misfiring on 16 consecutive 3-pointers Monday in a Maui Invitational opener against Purdue.

The Bulldogs didn’t need the long ball early then relied on it late to pull away for a 76-57 win over the Orange at SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center.

No. 11 Gonzaga (3-1) will move on to play either UCLA (3-1) or Chaminade (1-3) at 9 p.m. (PT). The Bruins entered as a heavy favorite against the Swords, who have an 8-97 all-time record at the Maui Invitational.

Despite 7-foot-4 center Naheem McLeod patrolling the paint for Syracuse, the Zags were able to establish an interior presence early on. Graham Ike and Anton Watson both reached double figures in the first half, helping the Bulldogs enter the break with a 39-25 lead.

Syracuse pulled to within six points in the second half on a poster dunk from Maliq Brown, but Nolan Hickman and Ben Gregg followed with consecutive 3-pointers to extend the lead back out to 12 points.

The Zags, who’d finish 7 of 20 from the 3-point line after making just 6 of 32 against Purdue the day prior, led by double figures for the remainder of the game and by as many as 23 points late in the second half.

Nolan Hickman scored 10 points in the second half to lead the Zags with 17 while Ike and Watson both posted double-doubles. Ike finished with 16 points, 14 rebounds and four steals while Watson scored 12 points while grabbing 13 rebounds.

Syracuse was led by sophomore guard Judah Mintz, who had 22 points on 9 of 13 shooting but also committed five turnovers.

The Orange finished just 23 of 64 from the field and encountered some of the same 3-point shooting issues the Zags had against Purdue, making 3 of 24.

Syracuse / Youtube

First half

20:00 – GU 0, SU 0: Zags going with their same starting five as yesterday. Fatigue may become a factor this week for guards Nembhard and Hickman, who played nearly all of yesterday’s game.

19:14 – GU 2, SU 0: Ike makes a nice spin in the post for a layup and we are off and running in Oahu.

16:54 – GU 11, SU 5: Solid start for the Zags who jump out to a 7-0 run. Ike getting things going in the post with six points. He knocks down a pair of free throws. GU didn’t get to the line much against Purdue yesterday. 

15:36 – GU 13, SU 5: Ike outworking Orange big man McLeod in the post. He fights for rebounding position and draws a second foul against McLeod.

Ike has six points and three rebounds at the first media timeout. Watson also off to a better start today with four points and two rebounds.

11:48 – GU 19, SU 8: Hickman hits a runner and Syracuse calls a timeout. Zags smothering the Orange on defense, limiting them to 3 of 14 from the field and 1 of 6 on 3-pointers. 

Ike and Watson lead GU with six points apiece. Looks like freshman guard Krajnovic is going to check in. He hasn’t seen many early-game minutes yet this year.

8:00 – GU 27, SU 17: Quick run by the Orange cuts the lead back to 10. Zags working in a backcourt rotation to give Nembhard and Hickman a breather. Watson putting together a great game, with 10 points and five rebounds.


3:52 – GU 31, SU 20: Syracuse hanging around, despite not making a field goal in 3:42. Hickman up to seven points for GU. Ike dominant on the glass with nine rebounds.

0:35 – GU 39, SU 25: Excellent passing from Nembhard, the Zags get easy looks in the paint to build their lead. Ike up to 12 points after back-to-back dunks.


How do you respond after a cold-shooting half sends you to your first loss of the season? Attack the paint, again and again.

Gonzaga did exactly that in the first half against Syracuse to build a 39-25 lead over the Orange in the consolation round of the Maui Invitational. 

Graham Ike and Anton Watson have been dominant for GU. Ike has 12 points and nine assists, while Watson has 10 and six. The Zags are outscoring Syracuse 30-10 in the paint and have a 25-17 rebound advantage.

Zags also have been solid on defense, limiting the Orange to 28% from the field and 3-for-14 on 3s.

Second half

17:05 – GU 41, SU 33: Sloppy play to open the second half and the Orange cut the Zags lead to under 10. GU with three turnovers in the last 2:24 and SU on a 6-0 run.

15:07 – GU 43, SU 35: All Orange at the U16 media timeout. Zags will need to find a way to break this spell, just 2 of 8 from the field in the second half with four turnovers. Syracuse is 4 of 5 in the half.

10:54 – GU 51, SU 41: Huff hits a big corner 3-pointer to halt the Syracuse run. GU hanging onto its lead at the U12 media timeout, but it hasn’t been convincing. Few visibly upset with the turnovers on the sideline, Zags up to 13 on the game (seven this half).

7:23 – GU 59, SU 47: Orange grab the momentum, but the Zags snatch it right back with back-to-back 3-pointers by Hickman and Greg. 

Hickman has come up huge for GU in the second half, scoring 10 of his team-high 17 points in the period. Mintz doing everything he can to keep Syracuse close, he has 22 points.

4:16 – GU 66, SU 49: Nembhard breaks away for a dunk to cap a 13-2 (7-0) run and Syracuse calls a timeout. That’ll about do it. 

Nembhard has nine points and seven assists, GU overcoming 16 turnovers. Syracuse on a 2:44 scoring drought.

2:01 – GU 72, SU 51: Reserves check in and the Zags pick up a win in Hawaii. They’ll go on to play the winner of UCLA and Chaminade tomorrow.


Gonzaga needs a little work on its shooting touch.

The No. 11 Bulldogs put together an excellent first half against No. 2 Purdue on Monday, but went ice cold, missing 16 consecutive 3-pointers during its first-round loss in the Maui Invitational.

Good news for the Zags: They have two more chances in Hawaii to work on their game against high-quality opponents.

That continues today when the Bulldogs take on Syracuse (3-1) in the early game at the Honolulu Civic Center. Tipoff is set for 11:30 a.m. PST with the broadcast on ESPN2.

The Orange, under first-year coach Adrian Autry, fell to No. 7 Tennessee 73-56 in the opening round. They collected wins over New Hampshire, Canisius and Colgate before the tournament. 

Series history

Gonzaga is 0-2 against Syracuse all-time, the last being a 63-60 loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. In that game, Michael Gbinije made a layup to take the lead with 22 seconds left and Josh Perkins missed a go-ahead jumper with 4 seconds to go.

Team stats

Game preview

Yesterday’s action