STOCKTON, Calif. — Gonzaga coach Mark Few didn’t mind another shuffling of the schedule. That’s become the norm around college basketball this season, particularly in the West Coast Conference.
It was the way No. 1 Bulldogs got pushed around during their rescheduled game against Pacific that bothered Few.
Drew Timme scored 21 points after a sluggish start and top-ranked Gonzaga overcame a sloppy performance to beat Pacific 76-58 on Thursday night.
“We had to dig deep and find some toughness because we didn’t have it there in the first half,” Few said. “They took the fight to us for pretty much that whole first half. We just weren’t playing very smart. Plan A wasn’t working, plan B wasn’t working and we had to hang with it and we finally figured it out with plan C.”
The Bulldogs (18-0, 9-0 West Coast Conference) trailed at halftime for only the second time this season and didn’t pull away until midway through the second half, extending the nation’s longest active winning streak to 22 games dating to 2019-20.
This one tested Gonzaga’s will as much as its talent. The Bulldogs were pushed around and played timidly on offense until Timme made back-to-back dunks early in the second half.
“We kind of got together in our little huddle and just said let’s go,” freshman Jalen Suggs said. “Drew made a big play on that dunk and got us fired up. From then on we played with really good fire. We went out and we attacked them. We stopped being victims.”
WCC leading scorer Corey Kispert had an off night. He was held to two points in the first half and spent much of the second half on the bench in foul trouble, but he scored 11 points in a two-minute burst and finished with 14.
Timme, the second-leading scorer in the conference behind his teammate, had eight points as part of a 15-2 run that gave the Bulldogs breathing room.
Suggs had 19 points, including an emphatic dunk that made it 70-54, and nine rebounds.
“It’s really hard when everybody around them nationally and everything just thinks you’re going to breeze through stuff, but it’s not reality,” Few said. “Teams are going to try different things and (Pacific) mucked it up a little bit and we probably didn’t handle that as well as we could have.”
Daniss Jenkins scored 13 points for Pacific (5-5, 2-4).
“I felt like we had it. It was right there for us,” Jenkins said. “Obviously we came up short. We had a couple turnovers in crunch time. Little mistakes like that.”
The Tigers had designs on an upset for much of the night before fading down the stretch, and Pacific’s frustrations boiled over following Kispert’s second straight 3-pointer in the second half. Coach Damon Stoudamire picked up a technical and had to be pulled away from referees.
“We’re not happy about losing. We’re past that here,” Stoudamire said. “We had a lot of opportunities. We missed a lot of open shots. When (Gonzaga) needed to turn it up another notch, they did on the defensive end.”
The game was originally scheduled for Feb. 25 but was moved forward three weeks after both teams had multiple games canceled or postponed this week due to COVID-19 issues. The Zags had home games against Loyola Marymount and Santa Clara wiped out while the Tigers had a pair of games against San Diego delayed.
Gonzaga was held to a season-low 31 points in the first half. When the two teams played in Spokane on Jan. 23, Gonzaga led by 31 at halftime on the way to its most lopsided win of the season, 95-49.
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs have won 15 consecutive games by double digits, the longest streak by a No. 1 team since UNLV ran off 19 in a row in 1990-91. That said, this one won’t make Few’s list of memorable wins. The Zags were out of rhythm for most of the game.
Pacific: The Tigers fell to 1-19 against the Bulldogs but this was by far one of their best efforts. Stoudamire’s team showed a lot of grit and gave Gonzaga its biggest scare of the season.
Gonzaga: Plays at BYU on Monday night. The Bulldogs beat BYU 86-69 on Jan. 7 in Utah.
Pacific: After having a pair of games against San Diego wiped out due to coronavirus issues, the Tigers will play at Loyola Marymount on Feb. 13. Pacific has won three straight in the series.