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Gonzaga beats North Florida 104 - 63

Great season opener

NCAA Basketball: North Florida at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

In the first game of the season, Gonzaga throttled the North Florida Ospreys 104 – 63. Gonzaga was led by Drew Timme with 21 points, Efton Reid with 8 rebounds and Anton Watson with 5 assists and 5 steals. Carter Hendricksen led the Osprey’s with 16 points and 8 rebounds, Jarius Hicklen added 5 assists.

Celebrating Native Americans heritage in their turquoise uniforms, GU exorcised the demons of a shaky second half against Tennessee and the inconsistent play against Warner-Pacific. Trailing 10-8 at the 3:08 mark of the first half, Gonzaga’s offense went into overdrive with a 26-0 run over the next nine minutes. The steak was broken by Efton Reid inadvertently tipping in a rebound after an incredible run of basketball by the Zags.

The offense we saw in the first half against Tennessee was again on display. Gonzaga shot an impressive 21 for 28 from two in the first half thanks to the solid interior play of Timme, Watson and Reid and the ability of the guards, especially Malachi Smith to get out and run then attack the rim.

Despite being non-competitive, Gonzaga kept the pressure on in the second half shooting 61.8 from the floor including 4 for 7 from deep. Thanks to Strawther and Colby Brooks, GU was 5 for 5 from the charity stripe in the half ending the game with an excellent 81% from the line.

Gonzaga’s defense was solid, holding the Ospreys to 35.6% from the field and 8 for 30 from deep. Gonzaga’s on ball defense was spectacular. They got an impressive 15 steals on the night. The Zags won the battle of the boards 41 to 30 with Efton Reid, in only 12 minutes of play, proving to be a force in the paint

We got a brief flash of the four-guard line-up so many felt would be the norm this season, but the great play of Watson and Reid kept two bigs on the floor most of the game. Not only was the post play solid, the Gonzaga fast break was a thing of beauty tonight. The quickness and athleticism of Sallis, Bolton, Strawther and Hickman on full display. Even Timme and Watson led the break after defensive rebounds. Once again, opponents better be ready to run.

Watson was spectacular tonight, filling up the stat sheet like ostensibly only he can. Great defense, fast hands and even a behind the back assist to Hickman. He scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds to go with the assists and steals mentioned above.

Malachi Smith was also huge, 15 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists along with rock-solid defense in the post and on the ball. He seemed much more comfortable tonight and will be tough to keep off the floor.

Gonzaga fans will rest much easier tonight. Michigan State is on-deck with a 1530 (3:30 p.m. PDT) tip-off on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in San Diego. Texas and Kentucky to follow.