It’s tough to visit The Kennel and emerge with a win. When the Gonzaga Bulldogs are hitting their shots, it’s nearly impossible.
That’s what happened on Monday when Gonzaga rolled past San Diego State, 69-48, in ESPN’s annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon.
The Bulldogs led virtually the entire way, racing out to a 17-8 lead behind contributions throughout the lineup.
Coming into the season, the assumption was that transfers Nigel Williams-Goss and Jordan Mathews would star in the backcourt, and they did not disappoint. Williams-Goss was solid all around with 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Mathews, meanwhile, led the team in scoring with 17 points, on 5-7 shooting from three. That included a pivotal early second-half stretch where he hit three consecutive from beyond the arc to hold off an Aztec run.
But Williams-Goss and Mathews were not the only players to contribute on the wing. Big man Killian Tillie showed off his versatility by stepping out and knocking down a triple in the first half, while Przemek Karnowski added a mid-range jumper to an already imposing interior presence.
Karnowski, however, was not the main story inside. The frontcourt star for Gonzaga was 7-foot freshman Zach Collins, who came off the bench to contribute 15 points and eight rebounds. If Collins and Tillie can be consistent contributors, the Bulldogs will have both an elite backcourt and frontcourt.
You don’t want to take too much from just one game, but it certainly appears that Gonzaga has the pieces for another deep NCAA Tournament run.
For San Diego State, the game was over shortly after it started. The Aztecs struggled to score all night, and even went 10 minutes in the second half without a field goal. It was a problem compounded by an inability to silence any of Gonzaga’s myriad offensive options.
Overall, the Aztecs shot just 29 percent from the field, and leading scorers Trey Kell and Jeremy Hemsley did their damage on just 9-29 combined shooting.
Those two were San Diego State’s two leading scorers last year as well. But this time around, they have had little help from their teammates. In the Aztecs’ season-opening win against San Diego, the duo combined for 48 of the team’s 69 points, with no other player scoring more than eight. On Monday, they accounted for 28 of the team’s 48 points, while no one else was able to add more than six points.
The Aztecs will get one game to try and figure things out — a home contest Wednesday against San Diego Christian — before the competition steps up again on Monday with a game against California.