No. 3 Gonzaga got off to a slow start against San Diego on Thursday, scoring just 22 points. Only it didn’t matter.
The Bulldogs still won by 20.
Yes, four Zags reached double figures, including forward Domantas Sabonis, who had 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench, helping Gonzaga to a 59-39 victory.
Sabonis, a 6-10, 231-pound freshman, said coming to Gonzaga (29-1, 17-0) was a very wise choice.
“Yeah, overall, I think I have become a better player playing for this team because everyone shares the ball,” Sabonis said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “We all get easy looks. No one’s selfish – and that’s the most fun part of the game.”
Gonzaga shot just 3-of-12 (25 percent) from outside the arc but 21-of-35 (60 percent) from inside it. The Bulldogs shot 51.1 percent overall.
“Yeah, usually when shots start not to fall, the best thing we do is share the ball,” Sabonis said. “We share the ball and at the end of the day, we get easy looks. Extra pass, extra pass and then we get an easy bucket.”
Przemek Karnowski, Gary Bell Jr., and Byron Wesley all finished in double figures for Gonzaga, scoring 14, 13 and 12 points, respectively. Gonzaga had 10 assists on 24 buckets.
“It doesn’t get boring,” Sabonis said of Gonzaga’s share-the-ball style. “It’s actually a lot more (fun). It’s fun sharing the ball. Everyone gets their night, everyone plays, everyone’s happy – it’s just a great atmosphere on the court.”
Sabonis, of course, is the son of former NBA great Arvydas Sabonis, arguably the greatest passing big man of all time. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 2011.
“When I was young, I used to watch him a bit,” Sabonis said. “But I don’t remember much, so I just see a lot of his highlights.”
Arvydas apparently gives his son some tough love from time to time.
“My family says he’s proud of me, but when I talk to him, he’s quite straightforward,” Sabonis said. “Doesn’t give me much.”
In any event, the Bulldogs have won 22 straight games. Their only loss this season came in early December at then-No 3 Arizona by three points in overtime.
Gonzaga closes the season at home against BYU (22-8, 12-5) this Saturday at 10 p.m. ET. BYU is led by 6-5 senior guard Tyler Haws, who is averaging 22.3 points per game.
Can the Zags shut him down?
“I think we can shut him down of course with Gary Bell doing a great job today on Johnny Dee,” Sabonis said. “I think he can bring it up again for Saturday night.”
Dee, a senior guard, scored just six points on 2-of-10 shooting for San Diego (14-15, 7-10).
Gonzaga, which has already clinched the WCC regular-season title, will be the favorite to win the conference tournament. If the Zags emerge victorious, it would be hard to deny them a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“We don’t actually care about these things,” Sabonis said. “We just go game-by-game. We don’t think abut it. We’re just going to try to prove everyone (wrong).”
The Zags are obviously hoping to get to the Final Four, but they first need to get to the Sweet 16 – something they haven’t done since 2009.
In fact, Gonzaga has lost in the second round – albeit to really good competition – in each of the last five years. The losses came to Syracuse (2010), BYU with Jimmer Fredette (2011), Final Four-bound Ohio State (2012), Final Four-bound Wichita State (2013) and Elite Eight-bound Arizona, which came within one point of the Final Four (2014).
Is this the year Gonzaga makes a run to Indianapolis?
“That’s our plan,” Sabonis said. “We’re going to try to do so. but first, game by game. We’ll see how it goes.”