No. 1 Gonzaga grinds out win at Saint Mary’s

Corey Kispert’s game-high 17 points led four players in double figures Saturday night as No. 1 Gonzaga shrugged off its shakiest start of the season to post a 73-59 West Coast Conference win over host Saint Mary’s in Moraga, Calif.

Joel Ayayi scored 16 for the Bulldogs (14-0, 5-0 WCC), while Jalen Suggs and Drew Timme each chipped in 14. Timme added eight rebounds and three blocked shots as Gonzaga converted 53.8 percent of its field goal attempts.

Dan Fotu scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Gaels (9-5, 0-3). Logan Johnson added 12 points, while Tommy Kuhse contributed 10 plus a game-high seven assists.

The big issue for Saint Mary’s was 34.9 percent marksmanship from the field, canceling out a 32-29 edge on the boards and 9 of 23 shooting from the 3-point line. It did earn the consolation prize of being the first team to hold the Zags under 85 points this season.

But Gonzaga was never really in danger in the second half, even though the Gaels trailed by only eight with just over nine minutes left. An 8-0 burst, capped by Timme’s free throw with 5:56 remaining, upped the margin to an insurmountable 64-48.

Saint Mary’s has struggled to consistently make shots against the top teams on its schedule, but it took it to Gonzaga for the first 12 minutes of the game. Matthias Tass’ layup capped a 12-2 run that put the Gaels up 14-7 at the 12:40 mark.

When Fotu connected on a short jumper in the lane with 9:03 remaining, Saint Mary’s led 22-12. At that point, the Zags finally hit the proverbial X button as their offense clicked into gear and the Gaels experienced a severe regression to the mean.

Aaron Cook’s 3-pointer kicked off a 20-3 burst over the half’s final 8:40, thanks in large part to Saint Mary’s missing 16 of its last 17 shots of the half. Ayayi’s layup put Gonzaga ahead to stay with 1:51 left, and another Ayayi layup set the halftime score at 32-25.

–Field Level Media

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