SPOKANE — Sam Dower spent the last few seasons backing up star Kelly Olynyk.
Now the 6-foot-9 senior knows its his time to shine for the 15th-ranked Bulldogs.
Dower had 21 points and 17 rebounds in Gonzaga’s season-opening 100-76 win over Bryant on Saturday night. It was his second career double-double. The victory, before a sellout crowd of 6,000, was Gonzaga’s 10th consecutive in a McCarthey Athletic Center season opener.
“It’s finally my time and I’m really excited about that,” said Dower, who was making his eighth career start. “I put in a lot of hard work preparing for this season and it showed tonight. I feel a lot more confident (starting) than I did coming off the bench. When you start, you have to set the bar out there for the guys.”
He did, scoring 11 points and grabbing nine rebounds before halftime.
“Sam was spectacular,” added Gonzaga coach Mark Few. “He was flying to the rim. That was the best I’ve seen him rebound.”
Dower’s previous high in rebounds was 10, set against Xavier in his sophomore season. But with Bryant (0-1) featuring no one taller than 6-8, Dower and 7-1 sophomore center Przemek Karnowski dominated inside.
“We don’t have the type of size,” Gonzaga has, said Bryant coach Tim O’Shea said. “But then again, you are talking about a team that has aspirations, legitimate aspirations for a Final Four vs. a Program that is in its second year of full Division 1 membership.”
Gerard Coleman, a transfer from Providence, scored 15 points for Gonzaga. Junior guards Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos added 14 apiece, and Karnowski had 10 points despite playing only 12 minutes due to foul trouble.
Dyami Starks scored a career-high 35 points for Bryant, including 29 in the second half.
Alex Francis added 13, giving him 1,503 in his career.
Nine players scored for Gonzaga.
Though the Zags lost their three top rebounders — including All-American Olynyk — from last season’s 32-3 team, the Bulldogs outrebounded Bryant 39-30.
It was the first meeting between Gonzaga, defending West Coast Conference champions and picked by the league’s coaches to repeat, and Bryant of the Northeast Conference. The NEC coaches tabbed Bryant to finish second in the conference in their preseason poll.
Bryant shot 35.6 from beyond the arc during their 19-12 season a year ago but made just one of their 12 first-half attempts as Gonzaga built a 49-28 lead at the break. Bryant finished 4 of 21 from long range.
Starks, who shot 40.8 percent on 3-pointers last season, missed his first five attempts and was 3 of 9 for the game.
The Zags shot 54 percent from the floor and turned the ball over just eight times.
Gonzaga jumped out to a 7-0 lead and steadily built the margin throughout the first half, closing on a 5-0 run. The Bulldogs increased the cushion to as many as 30 in the second half.
Gonzaga hit 21 of 28 free throws, while Bryant was 18 for 23 from the line.
Three players finished with four fouls for the Bulldogs.