STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) Gonzaga guard Jordan Mathews felt he had a pretty good plan to get Pacific’s defense on its heels by pump-faking and driving to the basket.
Coach Mark Few thought differently and gently urged his guard tandem – Mathews and Josh Perkins – to stop passing up the open looks they were getting from the perimeter.
In a span of 10 minutes, the duo did just that to help the Bulldogs remain unbeaten.
Mathews scored 16 points and fueled a big run in the second half to help No. 7 Gonzaga beat Pacific 81-61 on Saturday night.
“They started driving at the end of the first half (and) we were turning down wide open 3s,” Few said. “We talked about just shooting your shot when it’s open.”
Gonzaga (14-0, 2-0 West Coast Conference) trailed by eight with 17:13 remaining before going on a 25-4 run. Mathews and Perkins had two 3-pointers apiece during the spurt and the Bulldogs pulled away after that to continue their best start in school history.
“I thought (the defender) was closing out hard so I thought if I drive it then I could pull up,” Mathews said. “Some of the pull-ups were there, I just missed them. We have a great bond and I think that carried us when things got rough.”
Perkins finished with nine points and Przemek Karnowski added 19 points, five rebounds and seven assists to offset a slow night from leading scorer Nigel Williams-Goss. Williams-Goss had nine points on 4-of-10 shooting.
Jacob Lampkin had a career-high 18 points for Pacific. The Tigers (6-9, 0-2) were seeking their first win against a Top 25 team since the 2005 NCAA Tournament.
“It got away from us,” first-year Pacific coach Damon Stoudamire said. “Give them credit, they answered the bell. They’re the No. 7 team in the country and what they did was they wore us down. They knocked down shots, made some big shots and they’ve got a good team.”
Gonzaga had problems scoring in the first half despite getting open looks. Karnowski helped the offense down low, but the Bulldogs couldn’t shake the pesky Tigers until Mathews and Perkins started scoring from the perimeter.
Lampkin surpassed his career-high for points in the first half when he scored 16 to help the Tigers take a 34-29 lead. Pacific closed on a 10-1 run to send Gonzaga into the break trailing for only the second time this season.
“We got a little impatient on the offensive end and they did a great job taking it at us on their end,” Few said. “They just played a lot harder than us.”
The Tigers opened the second half equally strong and went up 42-34 on Lampkin’s jumper with 17:13 left.
Gonzaga responded with its best run of the night and never trailed after Mathews’ 3-pointer made it 48-46 with 11 minutes left.
Gonzaga: This clearly wasn’t the best effort from Few’s team and the Bulldogs have to get better moving forward if they want to stay in the Top 10. They were much more crisp in the second half and also upped their intensity on defense to stop Pacific’s flow. Killian Tillie appeared to injure his lower back after crashing to the floor early in the first half but returned and played 14 minutes.
Pacific: The Tigers had their shots but wilted in the second half when their offense went stagnant. The game was closer than the final score indicates.
Despite the sluggish start Gonzaga is almost certain to move into the Top 5 after Duke and Louisville both lost this week. No. 2 UCLA also lost but isn’t likely to drop too far.
KARNOWSKI THE PASSER
Pacific repeatedly sent two of their biggest players to double Karnowski whenever he touched the ball in the paint, so the 7-foot-1 Poland native turned into a facilitator while setting a career-high for assists.
“There’s probably been four or five teams throughout the four years that I’ve been here that didn’t double so I’m kind of used to it,” Karnowski said. “I was happy I could pass out. My teammates for the most part were making shots and I felt that really gave us an advantage with open 3s and cutters to the basket.”
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs return to Northern California to play at San Francisco on Jan. 5.
Pacific: Plays at San Diego on Jan. 5 in the Tigers’ first road game in more than three weeks.