Sabonis, Wiltjer lead No. 10 Gonzaga over N. Arizona 91-52
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) Domantas Sabonis hurt his back in Gonzaga's exhibition game against Eastern Oregon, and then saw the No. 10 Bulldogs' regular season opener against Pittsburgh get canceled after one half because of a slippery court.
''I really wanted to play a full game,'' Sabonis said.
Did he ever.
Sabonis scored 26 points and Kyle Wiltjer added 23 to help Gonzaga beat Northern Arizona 91-52 on Wednesday night.
It was the first game of the season for Gonzaga (1-0), after their season opener against Pitt last Friday was called off at halftime due to extremely slippery court conditions at the Armed Forces Classic in humid Okinawa, Japan. Gonzaga trailed Pitt 37-35 when that game was cancelled.
Sabonis, a 6-foot-11 sophomore, made 12 of 13 shots in limited minutes and looked recovered from the back injury.
''I was taking what my teammates gave me,'' Sabonis said. ''It was a good start.''
Gonzaga led 42-27 at halftime, then put the game away by opening the second half with a 31-5 run.
''We knew we had to come out hard,'' Sabonis said.
''After the half we came out focused and tough,'' said center Przemek Karnowski. ''Our defense was very good.''
Gonzaga shot 53 percent and won the rebound battle 53-31 to notch an easy victory.
Kris Yanku scored 18 points for Northern Arizona (0-3), which shot just 30 percent in the game. The Lumberjacks made just 3 of 17 from 3-point range.
Pittsburgh coach Jack Murphy said Sabonis was ''an NBA player playing in college.''
''I thought we played well,'' Murphy said. ''I thought we got some good looks. We just didn't finish them. They're an outstanding ball club,''
Gonzaga led by 15 at halftime and opened the second half with an 18-3 run to build a 60-30 lead. Sabonis had eight points during the run and Wiltjer six. The Zags continued to pour it on, pushing their lead to 40 points midway through the second half to coast to victory.
''It was good to see our guys get going,'' coach Mark Few said. ''I got after him (Sabonis) this week to get more aggressive,'' Few said. ''The more aggressive he is for us the better.''
Both teams shot poorly at the start, and Northern Arizona led 6-4 in the opening minutes. But Gonzaga went on a 15-4 run, including nine straight points by Sabonis, for a 19-10 lead midway through the first half.
Ako Kaluna hit a 3-pointer and then a lay-up for the Lumberjacks to cut Gonzaga's lead to 21-17.
Wiltjer scored five points as Gonzaga pushed its lead to 31-21.
The Zags led 42-27 at halftime, thanks in part to a 26-15 rebounding advantage. Neither team shot above 50 percent in the first half.
Gonzaga has won 12 consecutive season openers. Few came in with the highest winning percentage of all active Division I coaches at .810.
Northern Arizona, which has 11 freshmen and just three veterans on its roster, opened the season with losses at Washington State and Boise State.
The Lumberjacks won a school-record 23 games last season and advanced to the finals of the CollegeInsider.com tournament. Gonzaga advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament.
This is the first meeting between the programs since 1979 and Gonzaga leads the series 14-6.
Northern Arizona: Five of their first 11 opponents competed in a postseason tournament last year.
Gonzaga: Wiltjer and Sabonis made the Wooden Award preseason Top 50 list. Wiltjer, who had 15 points in the lone half against Pitt, was a Wooden Award finalist last season. The Zags led the nation in field goal percentage last season at .520.
Gonzaga partnered with Nike in celebration of Native American Heritage Month and wore turquoise uniforms, a color symbolic of friendship and harmony in Native American cultures.
Gonzaga outscored the Lumberjacks 46-24 in the paint and 49-9 off the bench.
Northern Arizona hosts Embry-Riddle on Friday.
Gonzaga hosts Mount St. Mary's on Saturday.