After an eight-day layoff, Gonzaga finally has a chance to build on one of its highest-scoring games of the season.
The 18th-ranked Bulldogs (8-2) could be in for another big offensive night when they host Northern Colorado (5-3) on Monday.
Gonzaga returns to the court for the first time since routing Cal State Northridge 85-59 at home Dec. 8. The Bulldogs matched a season high for points and bounced back nicely from a 51-47 defeat to then-No. 8 Washington State on Dec. 5.
“We didn’t come out with a goal to score 100 points just to show we could score,” said Gonzaga guard Jeremy Pargo, who had eight points, nine assists and four steals in the victory. “We came out looking for a win.”
The Bulldogs earned one by shooting 44.3 percent from the field and holding the Matadors to 32.0 percent.
Even though the victory came against an inferior opponent, it was still a step in the right direction for Gonzaga, which averages 74.7 points but was held to season lows in points and shooting percentage (25.9) by Washington State.
That loss ended a daunting six-game stretch for the Bulldogs that started with them going 2-1 at the Great Alaska Shootout and included road wins over St. Joseph’s and Connecticut.
“I’m very proud how we got through this stretch,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We had great competition in a lot of places.”
Gonzaga also fared much better on the boards its last time out, owning a 50-29 advantage over Northridge after being outrebounded by combined 21 in its last two contests.
“We’d gotten outrebounded two games in a row,” said Gonzaga forward David Pendergraft, who grabbed seven boards against Northridge. “Rebounding was a point of emphasis.”
Micah Downs had 19 points and Matt Bouldin added 18 for the Bulldogs, who also got an 11-rebound performance from senior Abdullahi Kuso.
The 6-foot-8 Downs is averaging 10.3 points, but 14.6 over his last three contests. Bouldin, the team’s leading scorer at 13.3 points per game, bounced back after being held scoreless on 0-for-9 shooting in the loss to Washington State.
Gonzaga will play the last of three straight home games Monday before facing Oklahoma at Oklahoma City on Thursday.
The Bulldogs, 43-2 since at the McCarthey Athletic Center since it opened in 2004, will meet Northern Colorado for the second time. Gonzaga beat the Bears 87-60 on Feb. 28, 2005.
Northern Colorado had its four-game winning streak snapped with a 69-53 loss at Denver on Dec. 8 in its most recent contest.
Junior college transfer Jabril Banks had 16 points for the Bears. The 6-7 Banks is averaging a team-leading 13.5 points and 16.0 in his last three games for Northern Colorado, which lost at Air Force and Iowa this season.
The Bears, picked to finish seventh in the Big Sky by the conference’s coaches, are in their fourth season as a Division I program.
Monday will be the first time Northern Colorado will face a Top 25 team since its last meeting with Gonzaga.