SPOKANE, Wash. — The Merrimack men’s basketball team kept the game within striking distance at halftime, but the No. 5 Gonzaga Bulldogs pulled away with a run early in the second half en route to an 80-55 win over the Warriors last night at the McCarthey Athletic Complex.
The Zags were the highest-ranked opponent the Warriors have ever faced. Merrimack trailed by 11 points at the half before the Zags went on a 20-5 run to begin the second half. The Warriors unique all-zone defense forced the Zags to adjust.
“It’s difficult to prepare for,” said Gonzaga head coach Mark Few. “They play 40 minutes of zone, every possession. I thought we did a nice job with it. Merrimack is team creates a lot of turnovers. They make you feel uncomfortable.”
“Their zone is tricky,” said Gonzaga star Drew Timme. “We did a good job moving the ball. We handled it well.”
Jordan Minor led the Warriors with 17 points. Ziggy Reid posted a season-high 16 points and Mikey Watkins finished with eight points and four assists.
“Minor is a nice player,” Few said. “He puts foul pressure on you. He’s strong and he score around the basket and he can drive you. … We also let Reid get going a little bit there.”
Gonzaga had a six-point lead early on. Reid started the Warriors' scoring with a runner in the paint. The next time down the floor, Watkins knocked down a jumper to put Merrimack down two.
Devin Jensen made a three with four minutes left in the half which cut the Warriors’ deficit to six points. Gonzaga then went on a 7-0 run to build a 14-point lead. The Warriors chipped away, going on a 5-0 run of their own to cut the lead to nine. The Bulldogs scored four points in the final minute but Malik Edmead knocked down a jumper as time expired to head into the locker room down 11.
Gonzaga went on an 8-0 run to begin the second half to build its lead to 19 points and began to hit three pointers, which Merrimack limited in the first half.
GAME NOTES: Minor has now scored in double figures six games in a row. He has three double-doubles during the stretch. … After struggling in the beginning of the season, the Warriors have shot the ball much better from the free throw line. The squad from North Andover shot 81% in the loss.
NEXT: Merrimack will travel to Indiana on Sunday for a noon tipoff. Gonzaga was supposed to play Washington this weekend but it was postponed. The Zags are now off until next week when they face Texas Tech.
#5 Gonzaga 80, Merrimack 55 at McCarthey Athletic Center Merrimack (4-7): 31-24—55 Gonzaga (8-2): 42-38—80 Merrimack (55): Jordan Minor 7-3-17; Ziggy Reid 5-2-16; Mikey Watkins 4-0-8; Malik Edmead 2-3-8; Jordan McKoy 0-0-0; Devin Jensen 1-0-3; Justin Connollly 1-1-3; Mykel Derring 0-0-0; James Berry III 0-0-0; Ryan Miller 0-0-0; Thomas Hall 0-0-0; Ryan Isaacson 0-0-0. Gonzaga: Drew Timme 8-6-22; Chet Holmgren 6-1-15; Julian Strawther 6-1-15; Rasir Bolton 2-2-6; Andrew Nembhard 1-0-2; Anton Watson 3-3-9; Hunter Salis 2-0-6; Nolan Hickman 0-2-2; Ben Gregg 0-0-0; Martynas Arlauskas 0-0-0; Joe Few 0-0-0; Matthew Lang 0-0-0. Rebounds: Merrimack 20, Gonzaga 56 Turnovers: Merrimack 8, Gonzaga 17 Attendance: 6,000 (6,000)
Exclusively for subscribers, my breakdown of Thusday’s game is below …