Last season, Gonzaga set a program record for margin of victory when it blasted Eastern Oregon by a stunning 78 points.
The 120-42 beatdown didn’t deter Eastern Oregon from making another trip north to Spokane, Wash., as the NAIA Mountaineers face the No. 11 Bulldogs (1-0) Tuesday night.
The good news for Eastern Oregon (0-3) is that the game is an exhibition on its schedule, which was the same for last season’s big loss.
Gonzaga shot 70.8 percent from the field in last season’s one-sided matchup and made a school-record 51 field goals.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs started slowly in this season’s opener before pulling away for an 86-71 home win over Yale on Friday night.
It was their first game without Drew Timme, a stalwart over the past four seasons, and the Zags appeared to need some time to move on.
But Gonzaga got its act together in the second half. It held a 47-42 halftime advantage before eventually leading by as many as 21 points.
Braden Huff recorded 19 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench in his first college game for Gonzaga. Huff redshirted last season.
“That redshirt year really helped him,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of Huff. “He has a lot to his game. He can score in the post, stretch you out a little bit and he rebounded.”
Creighton transfer Ryan Nembhard ran the offense well and had 16 points and seven assists and committed just one turnover.
Nolan Hickman (15 points), Anton Watson (11 points, 12 rebounds) and Wyoming transfer Graham Ike (11 points) also scored in double digits.
Few was pleased with the balance displayed by his team.
“Hopefully, we have five good players out there on the court and they can all kind of score,” Few said. “If you look at all of them, it’s kind of what they do. Obviously, we’ve been on Anton to be more aggressive and I thought he had a great second half. The other guys are kind of wired to make shots and score.”
Gonzaga lost a strong scorer in the days leading up to the opener when Eastern Washington transfer Steele Venters suffered a season-ending ACL tear during a practice. Venters was the Big Sky Player of the Year last season.
Eastern Oregon doesn’t have many pleasant memories from last season’s trip to Spokane.
The Mountaineers committed 28 turnovers, shot 29.6 percent from the field and were outscored 84-12 in the paint.
The second half was particularly brutal as Eastern Oregon was pummeled 62-14 and shot 16 percent from the field.
“It got away quick in the second half,” Mountaineers coach Chris Kemp said after last season’s game. “I think I looked up at the 8-minute mark, we’d scored six points in the second half and that’s just going to be tough.”
Eastern Oregon lost its third straight game this season when it fell 104-98 in overtime to Arizona Christian on Friday on a neutral floor in Lewiston, Idaho.
Garrett Hawkes led the Mountaineers with 38 points on 14-of-21 shooting. His explosion came after he combined for just 16 points in the first two games. Malachi Afework added 19 points for Eastern Oregon.
–Field Level Media