SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Gonzaga coach Mark Few was looking for a hard-nosed opponent to schedule at home in December to toughen up his No. 8 Bulldogs. He found one in Akron.
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Gonzaga coach Mark Few was looking for a hard-nosed opponent to schedule at home in December to toughen up his No. 8 Bulldogs.
He found one in Akron.
The Zips gave Gonzaga all it could handle before a late surge lifted the Bulldogs to a 61-43 victory Saturday night.
"Akron is a heck of a program," Few said. "They push you to the limit physically. We had to grind that one out."
Przemek Karnowski scored 14 points to lead all players in scoring in a defensive battle that lifted the Zags to the best start in program history.
Nigel Williams-Goss added 11 points for Gonzaga (10-0), which has won 10 straight to open the season for the first time since joining Division I in 1958.
Few was not overly impressed by the winning streak.
"I live for the next game," Few said. "I don't spend a lot of time looking back."
But he allowed that he felt "good" about Gonzaga's record. "I'm looking forward to getting better," he said.
Isaiah Johnson scored 11 points, and Jimond Ivey had 10 for Akron (7-3).
The Zips were undone by 27 percent shooting (16 of 60)
Gonzaga shot just 40 percent and finished 24 points below its season scoring average.
Johnathan Williams scored consecutive baskets and Gonzaga took a 31-25 lead early in the second half.
Akron cut the Gonzaga lead to three points, but four free throws by Williams-Goss pushed it out again.
Three-pointers by Ivey and Josh Williams cut Gonzaga's lead to 42-40 with just under 10 minutes left in the game.
But Jordan Mathews hit a 3-pointer to spark a 16-1 run that gave the Zags a 61-43 lead with 2:46 left.
The Zips were held without a field goal for the final 8 minutes of the game.
"We got tired," Akron coach Keith Dambrot said. "I was disappointed in how we finished."
Dambrot has also been upgrading his schedule to put his players in tough situations.
"We are big enough to compete with the big boys," he said.
Baskets were hard to come by in the first half.
A 3-pointer by Silas Melson helped Gonzaga build a 15-9 lead midway through the first half, as both teams went long periods without scoring.
That lead held up as Gonzaga led 23-17 at halftime, despite shooting just 27.6 percent. That's because Akron shot just 25.8 percent and missed all 11 of its 3-point attempts. Gonzaga had been averaging 45 points in the first half of its past four games.
It was a season low in first half points for both teams.
"We didn't let our frustrations on offense bleed over to the defensive side," Few said.
The teams' only previous meeting was in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament, won by Gonzaga 77-64.
A tough win over a quality foe will not hurt Gonzaga's poll ranking.
Akron: Three players are averaging double-digit scoring, led by Isaiah Johnson at 15.2. Antino Jackson and Noah Robotham are adding 12 and 10.1 ppg. Akron is one of just five programs, including Gonzaga, that has won at least 21 games in the past 11 seasons. Dambrot coached LeBron James at Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
Gonzaga: The only other time the Bulldogs started 9-0 was in 2012-13, and they lost the next game to Illinois. Gonzaga has seven players averaging between 7.9 and 13.7 points per game. Gonzaga is currently seventh in the RPI on NCAA.com.
Akron outrebounded the Zags 42-36, including 20 offensive rebounds that gave them an 18-2 advantage on second chance points. Gonzaga made 17 of 20 free throws, which helped them stay ahead when the game got tight. Akron was 6 of 14 from the line.
Akron hosts Marshall next Saturday.
Gonzaga plays Tennessee in Nashville at the Battle on Broadway on Dec. 18.
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