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Difference makers: Anton Watson's near triple-double help leads Gonzaga past McNeese State in NCAA Tournament

Mar. 21—Anton Watson

Joel Ayayi is responsible for the only triple-double in Gonzaga history, posting 12 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds during a Jan. 9, 2021, game at Portland. Watson was nearly responsible for the second triple-double in Gonzaga's history, on the sport's biggest stage. The fifth-year senior dished out six first-half assists before scoring his first point and entered halftime with four points, six assists and two rebounds. Watson made up ground in the rebounding column in the second half, pulling down 11 boards, and finished with a stat line of 13 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. The nine assists were a career high and his 13 rebounds matched a season high for the Gonzaga Prep product, who finished with his ninth double-double.

Graham Ike

Ike said he didn't count his first NCAA Tournament appearance, losing in a First Four game against Indiana during his sophomore season at Wyoming, and failing to advance into the Round of 64. This one surely counts though. Coming off a pair of 10-point games at the West Coast Conference Tournament — a rough stretch by Ike's standards after he scored at least 20 points in seven consecutive games — the junior forward came through with his ninth double-double of the season, scoring 16 points to go with 10 rebounds. Ike didn't miss from the field, finishing 6 of 6, and had a perfect night at the free-throw line, where he was 4 of 4. The Colorado native played 23 minutes and checked out for the final time with 14:07 remaining in the game and GU leading by 25 points.

Turning point

Gonzaga was full of scoring runs on Thursday — some of them larger and longer than others. Near the end of the second half, the Bulldogs went on a 12-0 spree from the 5:24 mark to the 2:58-mark. Ben Gregg was GU's leading catalyst during the scoring spurt, driving to the basket for a layup before scoring at the rim on the next possession and following with his first 3-pointer to extend the Bulldogs' advantage to 22 points. Watson closed out the run with a driving baseline dunk, prompting McNeese State coach Will Wade to call a timeout with the Zags leading 44-20. Gonzaga entered the halftime break with a 48-25 lead and extended the advantage to 35 points with less than five minutes remaining.