FORT MYERS, Fla. — Coach Mark Few and Gonzaga keep reaching new heights.
While the top-ranked Bulldogs opened their season with a 102-90 victory over No. 6 Kansas, Few won his 600th game.
“I got an ice shower in the locker, which I didn’t expect,” said Few, who has been at Gonzaga since 1999. “(Kansas coach) Bill (Self) and I set this up for a big college basketball game on Thanksgiving Day before the Cowboys game. That’s why we love college basketball. There’s a lot more games like this coming across the season.”
Drew Timme scored 25 points, Jalen Suggs had 24 and Corey Kispert added 23 as No. 1 Gonzaga pulled away for a statement win.
“We’re not that experienced of a team coming back,” Few said. “We needed Drew and Corey against a high, high level team. We needed their experience and toughness.”
The Bulldogs built a double-digit lead in the first half at the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off, then saw the Jayhawks tie it twice in the second half before putting them away. Gonzaga went on a 22-7 run to go up 96-78.
Self said he believes the Bulldogs are as talented as the Kentucky team in 2014-15, which went 38-0 before losing to Wisconsin in the Final Four.
“I thought we played a great team,” he said. “They have four guards who I think will be the best guards we’ll play all year.”
Suggs, who got in foul trouble in the first half, scored 17 of his 24 in the second half.
“I played patient, picked my spots, picked my moments,” Suggs said.
Few said Suggs was special. “And he’s so good to coach,” he added.
Marcus Garrett led Kansas with 22 points and Ochai Agbaji added 17 points. Agbai picked up his fourth foul midway through the second half, which hurt the Jayhawks. When he left, Kansas trailed 70-67.
“We needed Ochai out there,” Self said. “We’re not deep enough to make up for him.”
The Jayhawks rallied from a 14-point deficit in the first half to tie the game at 57.
Gonzaga went on a 12-3 run to take a 20-9 lead. Timme scored eight of those points from the inside. He and the Bulldogs constantly broke down Kansas’ defense, which led to three layups in a row.
With Gonzaga leading 29-15, Kansas made a couple of runs to cut the deficit to as little as five. However, Kispert heated up and kept the Jayhawks at bay. Gonzaga led 54-46 at the half.
Thanks to 62 points in the paint, the Bulldogs shot 65% from the field.
“We definitely can’t start games like that,” Garrett said. “We have to be better.”
Three non-athletes that are part of Gonzaga’s traveling party were isolating in their hotel rooms after one tested positive for the coronavirus.
A total of 112 tests were given and no players from any of the four participating teams tested positive, tournament officials said. Auburn and St. Joseph’s also are participating in the tournament.
“To get the game in was really important for our guys,” Few said. “The Kansas program and ours were consistently doing the right things. We did the protocols and tested hundreds of times. I absolutely marvel at what these guys have done. They’ve never complained.”
The way these teams played each other, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Gonzaga and Kansas meet again late in the NCAA Tournament, maybe the Final Four.
The Bulldogs are deep and look like they can play defense as well as any of Few’s teams. They can score from the inside and the outside.
Kansas never gives up. Not many teams in the country could get in a 14-point hole to the nation’s No. 1 team and come back to tie it. However, the Jayhawks couldn’t recover from Gonzaga’s second offensive attack.
“I thought we had a bad 25-28 minute start,” Self said. “We gave up a lot of layups, we turned the ball over. Yet we could’ve had a two- or four-point lead.”
While Suggs took over the game at times for Gonzaga, Bryce Thompson and Jalen Thompson had solid openers for Kansas, combining for 23 points.
“(Jalen) was in attack mode,” Garrett said. “He guarded well and was a competitor. Bryce had the same aggressive mindset.”
Gonzaga, which is playing four morning nonconference games in West Coast time, including top-10 matchups with Baylor and Iowa, will play Auburn on Friday at 11 a.m. EST.
“That’s been in the back of our minds,” Few said. “We’ve been getting them up at 7ish, which is 4 for us. I can tell you no teenager likes to get up early.”
Kansas, which also has a challenging nonconference schedule including Kentucky and Creighton, will play St. Joseph’s on Friday.