No. 1 Gonzaga thumps North Dakota State 102-60
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — North Dakota State didn’t figure to pose too much trouble for Gonzaga on the day the Bulldogs rose to No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25. The Bison didn’t.
“Mission accomplished,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.
Few had worried about his team having a letdown after beating former No. 1 Duke at the Maui Invitational, in part because of the long trip home. But that didn’t happen.
“They were mature in their approach,” Few said. “Josh Perkins did a great job of settling us down, especially on the offensive end. “
Gonzaga also did a good job on defense, holding North Dakota State to 4-of-27 shooting from behind the arc. Corey Kispert added 17 points and Zach Norvell Jr. 15 for Gonzaga (7-0), which shot 63.8 percent in the game, including 15-of-28 from 3-point range.
“Some games you just have to throw away and move on,” Bison coach David Richman said. “That’s what we have to do with this one.”
Clarke made all nine of his field goal attempts and added eight rebounds and five blocks for Gonzaga. Six Zags scored in double figures.
“He’s playing with great energy,” Few said. “He’s protecting the rim and really being active on the offensive end.”
Clarke said the Zags need to keep perspective.
“We have to keep on playing tough,” Clarke said. “Don’t let that ranking get to us.”
“I felt I was taking shots that I can make pretty easily,” he said. “I wasn’t forcing shots.”
Gonzaga has beaten four teams from Power Five conferences already this season, and came in averaging 97 points per game to 71 for the Bison. North Dakota State stayed close early, and led 19-18 with just over 10 minutes left in the first.
Gonzaga replied with a 19-0 run, making seven consecutive field goals, for a 37-19 lead. Clarke had 10 points and Josh Perkins had a pair of 3-pointers in the run. The Bison were scoreless for more than 6 minutes before Cameron Hunter’s 3-pointer ended the Gonzaga run.
But Gonzaga then embarked on a 16-3 run to take a 53-25 lead at halftime. The Zags shot 72.5 percent (21 of 29) in the first half, while North Dakota State shot just 37 percent and committed eight turnovers.
Kispert sank three consecutive 3-pointers as a 22-2 run put Gonzaga up 85-38 midway through the second.
Gonzaga students chanted “we want Cleveland” in the final minutes.
A popular video on social media among Gonzaga fans shows Few swinging out on a rope and doing a back flip into a Maui pond after the Duke win.
Gonzaga handed out 25 assists and won the rebound battle 38-30. Norvell had eight assists and Josh Perkins six.
North Dakota State managed to make just 23 of 65 shots and suffered 12 turnovers that led to 21 Gonzaga points. The Zags also got 28 points on fast breaks.
North Dakota State: The Bison of the Summit League have only beaten UC Santa Barbara and Towson this season. In their game notes they noted: “The Zags are really good. They almost never lose.” The Bison lost to Gonzaga in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
Gonzaga: The Zags played without guard Geno Crandall, who is out several weeks with a fractured hand, and forward Killian Tillie, out for another month with an ankle injury. Gonzaga now enters the toughest portion of its remaining nonconference schedule, with games in the next two weeks against Creighton, Washington, No. 6 Tennessee and No. 11 North Carolina. Only the Washington game is home.
North Dakota State plays at Drake on Saturday.
Gonzaga plays at Creighton, which is receiving votes in the AP poll, on Saturday. “They are very gifted offensively,” Few said of Creighton. “They have a big huge arena with a loyal fan base.”