SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Kyle Wiltjer said the players of No. 9 Gonzaga were angry at themselves when they went into the locker room at halftime trailing Southeastern Louisiana 33-32 on Tuesday.
They took that anger out on the Lions in the second half, opening with a 30-4 run to bury the visitors and coast to a 76-57 victory.
“We were mad at ourselves,” said Wiltjer, who led all scorers with 20 points. “But we made adjustments at halftime, being in the gaps and increasing our intensity.”
The slowdown game that worked for Southeastern Louisiana in the first half fell apart, and the Lions went nearly 10 minutes without scoring in the second half.
“They just started to take advantage of their size,” said Southeastern Louisiana coach Jay Ladner. “We were not big enough or athletic enough.”
But Ladner said he was proud of his team, which has only six scholarship players, for making it a contest.
“These kids played their tails off,” Ladner said.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few also praised the Lions.
“They took great care of the ball and made some tough shots,” Few said. “They kept the pace of the game down … our guys were frustrated.”
In the second half, “we made plays in the gaps and helped each other more,” Few said. “We were unbelievably efficient on the offensive end.”
Gonzaga shot 56.7 percent in the second half, while the visitors managed just 44 percent.
Gonzaga plays at No. 3 Arizona on Saturday, a game that matches perhaps the two most dominant basketball programs in the West over the past decade.
“It will be a big-time college basketball game in December,” Few said. “They have as good a talent as there is out there outside of Kentucky.”
“I don’t think we could be more excited about Saturday’s game,” added Gonzaga’s Byron Wesley.
Domantas Sabonis added 14 points and Kevin Pangos 12 for Gonzaga (7-0).
Joshua Filmore had 14 points and Zay Jackson and DeVonte Upson each scored 12 for Southeastern Louisiana (2-6) of the Southland Conference.
This was the first game between the two schools.
Undersized Southeastern Louisiana played well in the first half, but Gonzaga’s depth and rebounding overwhelmed the Lions in the second half. Gonzaga won the rebound battle 30-21 and shot 53 percent in the game to 49 percent for the Lions.
Trailing by one at halftime, Gonzaga opened the second half with a 9-2 run to take a 41-35 lead. Gary Bell Jr. opened the run with a 3-pointer, and Przemek Karnowski added a dunk.
Wiltjer hit a layup and Wesley completed a 3-point play as Gonzaga built a 46-37 lead.
Gonzaga outscored the Lions 30-4 over the first 12 minutes of the second half, holding them to 2-of-10 shooting over that stretch, to take a 62-37 lead.
Southeastern Louisiana was scoreless for nearly 10 minutes before Daniel Grieves hit a pair of free throws with 7 minutes left.
The Lions finally started to sink baskets, going on a 9-2 run to cut Gonzaga’s lead to 64-46, but it was too late.
Southeastern Louisiana: Zay Jackson leads the Lions in scoring at 15.7 ppg … the Lions have lost at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this season … Coach Jay Ladner is in his first season as an NCAA head coach, after winning community college national title last season.
Gonzaga: Gonzaga in its last game edged St. John’s for the NIT Season Tip-Off title … Gonzaga has a 30-game home winning streak, second longest in the nation … the Zags rank third in the nation with a 54.8 field goal percentage and 20.2 assists per game … the Zags are the only team in the nation that ranks in the top 10 in both field goal percentage and field percentage defense (34.3 percent).
Southeastern Louisiana plays at Southeast Missouri on Saturday.
Gonzaga plays at No. 3 Arizona on Saturday.
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