Clarke, Hachimura lead No. 8 Gonzaga over Denver 101-40
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Rui Hachimura was perfect from the field and missed just one free throw, but what he really wanted to talk about was his defense.
“I think we played good defense first,” Hachimura said. “Right now we are more focused on defensive stuff.”
Hachimura scored 23 points on 9-of-9 shooting, Brandon Clarke also had 23 and Gonzaga routed Denver 101-40 on Friday night.
Gonzaga held Denver to 24.6 percent shooting, including 2 of 18 from 3-point range. The Bulldogs were plenty efficient on offense, too, making their first 15 shots to jump to a 36-6 lead.
“That’s good,” said Hachimura, who was aware of his shooting streak.
“I saw the board. It said 100 percent,” he said. “Oh, yeah.”
Corey Kispert added 13 points and Zach Norvell Jr. scored 12 for Gonzaga (11-2), which is 13-0 all-time against current members of the Summit League.
Troy Stewart-Miller scored 10 points for undermanned Denver (5-9), which couldn’t handle Gonzaga’s size and speed.
Clarke made 10 of 12 field goals as Gonzaga shot 68 percent to overwhelm the Pioneers.
“Our ball pressure made some things happen,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said, adding the perimeter defense “took away their main scorers.”
Few said he didn’t realize the Zags sank their first 15 shots.
“I was ticked off about turnovers,” Few said of the 13 turnovers recorded by his team.
This one was over early.
Denver missed its first 11 shots and did not score for the first six minutes, falling behind 18-0.
“We always talk about getting a really, really good start,” Clarke said. “Just to make the game a lot easier for us.”
Gonzaga led 56-19 at halftime after shooting 84.6 percent (22 of 26) from the floor. Hachimura scored all his points in the first.
The Pioneers shot just 21.4 percent in the first (6 of 28) and committed 10 turnovers.
Denver made a 9-2 run early in the second to cut Gonzaga’s lead to 63-28, but Gonzaga soon had the lead back at 40 points.
“This will launch us into a well-deserved break for this squad,” Few said of the week off for Christmas. “We’ve got to regenerate the batteries.”
A pair of big wins this week should help the Zags at least maintain the No. 8 ranking, and perhaps move up.
Gonzaga won the rebounding battle 42-29, led by Clarke’s seven. The Zags outscored Denver in the paint 56-20.
The Pioneers came in shooting 37 percent from 3-point range, but they made just 11 percent against Gonzaga and went only 6 of 10 from the free-throw line.
Denver: The Pioneers came in averaging 70.4 points per game, but could not penetrate Gonzaga’s defense. ... Denver coach Rodney Billups was the starting point guard when the Pioneers lost to Gonzaga in 2003, the only previous meeting between the programs.
Gonzaga: Guard Josh Perkins leads the nation with 96 assists and the Zags lead the nation with 232 assists. ... Gonzaga came in averaging 93.3 points per game, sixth in the nation. ... Four Gonzaga starters average in double digits and the fifth averages better than nine points per game. ... Gonzaga has won 93 percent of its home games since the McCarthey Athletic Center opened in 2004.
Denver plays at Omaha in its Summit League opener next Friday.
Gonzaga takes a Christmas break and plays North Alabama next Friday, the third in a run of six consecutive home games.