Gonzaga lowers boom on McNeese, 86-65

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 22 Mar, 2024 at 05:27 AM

Credit: Gabriel Mayberry-USA TODAY Sports

Graham Ike and Anton Watson had double-doubles and hot-shooting No. 5 seed Gonzaga routed No. 12 McNeese 86-65 in the first round of the NCAA Midwest Region on Thursday night in Salt Lake City.

Ike finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Watson had 13 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and two steals for the Bulldogs (26-7), who advanced to play No. 4 Kansas on Saturday. Ben Gregg added 12 points, Nolan Hickman scored 11 and Dusty Stromer had 10.

"I couldn't have been prouder of how our guys attacked the moment of a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament," said Gonzaga coach Mark Few. "We were as dialed in as we've ever been on the scouting reports. We executed the plan great and we were phenomenal on defense throughout the whole game. I loved our confidence. I loved our approach."

Gonzaga shot 51.7 percent from the floor and made 10 of 21 3-pointers. The Cowboys shot 33.3 percent from the floor and made just 5 of 22 from deep. The Southland Conference regular-season and tournament champions finished 30-4 after their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 22 years.

Christian Shumate had 19 points and 11 rebounds, Shahada Wells scored 19 points and DJ Richards Jr. added 10 points for McNeese, which entered the tournament on an 11-game winning streak.

Gregg made a 3-pointer to start the second-half scoring, and Ike followed with two free throws as Gonzaga increased its lead to 53-25. The Bulldogs went on to lead by as many as 34 points.

"Gonzaga played really, really well," said McNeese coach Will Wade. "Their length had a lot to do with us missing a lot of layups at the rim. It was deflating. We were missing layups and were hitting open 3s. You could tell they're a team that's been here before. They're a team that's been in these moments and we're still a program that's building and trying to play well in these moments.

"I'm not going to let one bad night ruin a lot of really, really good nights. We ran into a buzzsaw. They're a tremendous program and a tremendous team."

Hickman made two 3-pointers and Ryan Nembhard and Stromer made one each as the Zags opened a 14-7 lead. The Cowboys trimmed the margin to four points twice before Stromer scored four points to help Gonzaga expand the lead to 20-12.

Mike Saunders Jr. converted a three-point play for McNeese before Nembhard and Hickman each made a 3-pointer to lead the charge as the Bulldogs expanded the lead to 32-18.

Wells' layup ended a field-goal drought of more than three minutes for the Cowboys, but Gonzaga scored the next 12 points to expand the lead to 24 points before holding a 48-25 halftime lead.

Anton Watson (on Gonzaga winning its first game in the tournament for a 15th consecutive season)

--Field Level Media