SPOKANE, Wash. (AP)—For half the game, Idaho looked like an interesting opponent for No. 14 Gonzaga.
But Gonzaga (2-0) played what coach Mark Few called its best defense in his tenure in the second half, holding the Vandals to 13 points on the way to an 80-43 victory on Tuesday.
“I’ve been here 19 years,” Few said. “That’s the best we’ve ever had.”
After trailing just 36-30 at halftime, the Vandals were just 5-for-24 in the second half and committed 11 turnovers. That seemed to undo them, as they were only 2-for-13 from the foul line in the second half. Idaho was 4-for-18 on the game.
“We can’t collapse like that,” said Brandon Brown, who led Idaho with 12 points and 7 rebounds. “We’ve got to stay together to win games.”
The Zags put on an incredible defensive display in the second half. They held the Vandals (1-1) to just seven points in the first 15 minutes, including a 12-minute span in which they gave up just two points.
The Vandals had used aggressive defense to stay close in the first, and paid for it later as three players fouled out and another had four fouls.
“We told ourselves before the game we were going to be the aggressors,” coach George Pfeifer said. “We ran out of bodies.”
Freshman Austin Daye had another steller showing for Gonzaga, leading all scorers with 18 points, 15 in the second half. He also had six of Gonzaga’s 10 blocks.
Jeremy Pargo added 14 points for the Zags, while Matt Bouldin had 12 and Abdullahi Kuso had 10. The Zags shot 56 percent, and outrebounded the Vandals 48-29.
The Zags also suffered 18 turnovers and committed 20 fouls, to Idaho’s 29, in a sloppy game.
Still, Idaho trailed only 36-30 at halftime, and Jordan Brooks scored all five points as the Vandals pulled to within 38-35 early in the second.
Gonzaga then went on a 10-0 run, keyed by six points by Daye, for a 48-35 lead.
After Idaho’s Trevor Morris scored with 13:42 left, the Vandals only basket in the 12-minute stretch, the Zags went on a 21-0 run to lead 69-37 with 5:19 left. Morris finished with 10 points.
Few was critical of his team’s “casual” approach in the first half.
“We’re not very good when we play ‘cool,”’ Few said.
Larry Gurganious, who had 7 rebounds and 3 steals in the game, kept the Zags close in the first half with his defense, Few said.
Forward Darin Nagle, who scored 17 points in the season opener for Idaho, fouled out with no points and no rebounds midway through the second half.
In the first, David Pendergraft scored seven straight points as Gonzaga opened with a 9-0 lead. But Idaho battled back and Mike Kale’s short jumper tied the score at 13.
Idaho scored six straight points for a 24-20 lead. But the Vandals managed only one basket over the next 7 minutes, while Gonzaga’s Pargo scored 9 points during a 14-2 run for a 34-26 lead.
Gonzaga is 41-1 at the McCarthey Athletic Center since it opened in 2004.
Idaho leads the series 70-63, but the Zags have won eight straight since their last loss in 1998.
Idaho opened the season with a 110-52 win over Cascade. The Vandals have only four returning players from a team that went 4-27, and have seven new players. It doesn’t get any easier for the Vandals, who play No. 9 Washington State on Friday.