SPOKANE, Wash. (AP)Top-ranked Gonzaga was coasting to another victory over Northwestern State, but then suddenly found itself in a dogfight and had to rely on star forward Drew Timme to seal the win.
Timme had 25 points and nine rebounds as the Bulldogs held off a late challenge to beat Northwestern State 95-78 on Tuesday for the second night in a row.
After managing just 17 points in the first half, the Demons poured in 61 over the final 20 minutes to make it a game. Northwestern State hit 10 3-pointers in the second period.
”They really torched us from 3 and spread us out,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. ”They just put it on us pretty good after we’d had our best first half of the season.
”They got on a roll and it was like we were on roller skates.”
Jalen Suggs added 19 points and Corey Kispert had 18 for Gonzaga (6-0), which owns the nation’s longest home win streak at 41 games.
Jairus Roberson scored 15 points to lead Northwestern State (1-9), which was playing its fourth game in five nights. Jovan Zelenbaba and Trenton Massner each had 14.
The Zags cruised to a 95-57 victory over Northwestern State on Monday. The last time Gonzaga hosted the same non-conference opponent on back-to-back days was a pair of victories over Eastern Montana in 1965.
Gonzaga jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first five minutes and led 24-2 after nine minutes. The Demons made just one of their first 12 shots.
Gonzaga led 43-17 at halftime, after Northwestern State shot just 27% from the floor and committed 16 turnovers that the Zags converted into 17 points.
The Demons opened the second half with a 13-2 run to cut Gonzaga’s lead to 45-30. The Zags replied with a 12-2 spurt to push their lead back to 25.
A barrage of 3-pointers brought the Demons to 75-64 with seven minutes left. But it was their last gasp.
Timme scored seven points as the Zags pushed the margin to 84-64 with just over three minutes left.
”We were able to find Drew,” Few said. ”That’s when we are at our best.”
Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said his team ”decided to play basketball.”
”They missed some shots. We made some shots,” he said. ”They had eight offensive boards versus 18 a night ago.”
”We had one turnover in the second half. That’s the stat of the game,” McConathy said.
Few complimented the visitors.
”They competed 40 minutes each night,” Few said. ”When they got down big each night they didn’t quit.”
Northwestern State shot 60% in the second half and made 12 of 24 3-pointers in the game. Gonzaga held a 68-26 advantage in the paint, but the Zags went only 4 of 18 from 3-point range.
Beating Northwestern State twice should help the Zags retain the No. 1 ranking.
Northwestern State: The Demons have played seven of their first nine games on the road.
Gonzaga: Few said his team desperately needs to play games, which is why the Zags played the Demons twice in a row. … The West Coast Conference selected Suggs, a freshman, as its player of the week for his 27-point effort against No. 3 Iowa – in just his fourth game.
Northwestern State plays at Washington State on Wednesday.
Gonzaga plays its fourth ranked opponent of the season when it faces No. 16 Virginia on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas. ”They are the slowest-paced team in America,” Few said of the Cavaliers. ”Their defense is elite. It will be a huge test.”
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