Gonzaga’s Austin Daye overcame the usual nervousness to put together an outstanding performance in his much-anticipated college debut.
With the anticipated return of star forward Josh Heytvelt temporarily put on hold by an injury, the No. 14 Bulldogs hope their 6-foot-10 freshman can keep producing when they host Idaho on Tuesday night.
Daye, son of former UCLA and NBA player Darren Daye and one of the school’s most prized recruits, had 20 points and 10 rebounds in Gonzaga’s 77-54 season-opening victory over Montana on Sunday. Daye’s performance and the win, however, were overshadowed by the news that Heytvelt was to undergo surgery Monday to insert two screws in his foot.
The 6-11 junior, who averaged 15.5 points and a team-leading 7.7 rebounds last season, is expected to miss four to six weeks.
“It’s another setback I have,” said Heytvelt, who was recently reinstated to the team after missing the last nine games of 2006-07 following his arrest for drug possession.
The Bulldogs hope Daye will be able to fill much of the void created by Heytvelt’s absence.
Coming off the bench Sunday, Daye was 8-for-13 from the field and made both his 3-point attempts to go with two blocks and two steals in 27 minutes.
“I hope I didn’t set the bar too high,” Daye said. “My dad was watching my first college game. It was pretty nerve-racking.”
It’s uncertain whether Daye will be in the starting lineup Tuesday as the Bulldogs look for their eighth straight victory over Idaho. Gonzaga coach Mark Few, though, was impressed with his freshman’s performance.
“Austin is a gamer,” Few said. “It’s only one game out, but it’s an incredible opening act.”
Jeremy Pargo had 17 points and Matt Bouldin added 13 for the Bulldogs, who shot 53.7 percent Sunday. Pargo had 11 points and six assists in Gonzaga’s 76-51 victory over Idaho on Nov. 26 in the teams’ most recent meeting.
The Vandals are coming off a 110-52 win over Cascade College on Friday, their first season-opening victory in four years.
Junior guard Trevor Morris scored 25 points and went 5-for-8 from 3-point range for Idaho, which shot 66.1 percent from the floor and 60.0 percent (12-for-20) from beyond the arc.
Idaho went 4-27 in 2006-07 and has won just eight games the last two seasons. Its most recent victory over Gonzaga was 71-64 on Jan. 5, 1998.
“What is going to be critical for this group is not just understanding they have to play with a tough-minded resolve, but actually demonstrating it with their actions every day,” Vandals coach George Pfeifer said.
Idaho is winless in its last 13 games against Top 25 opponents.