SPOKANE — Coach Mark Few of No. 18 Gonzaga doesn’t want to see guard Josh Perkins focusing on pretty passes or crossover dribbles.
“Josh is an elite level shooter,” Few said Friday night, after Perkins scored 20 points to lead Gonzaga over Texas Southern 97-69. “I want him to focus on that.”
Perkins made 6-of-10 from 3-point range as the Bulldogs won the season opener for both teams. He had 15 points in the first half, when Gonzaga built a 21-point lead over the Tigers that they could not overcome.
“I liked his approach,” Few said of the junior point guard. “I thought he managed the game pretty well.”
Johnathan Williams added 16 points for Gonzaga (1-0), which lost four key players from a team that last season lost to North Carolina in the NCAA championship game.
Killian Tillie had 12 rebounds as Gonzaga dominated the boards 57-35.
Silas Melson added 13 points, Rui Hachimura 11 and freshman Corey Kispert, a King’s High School alum, added 10 for Gonzaga.
Kispert “is somebody who is physically ready to walk right out there,” Few said. “He is still learning the game on the defensive end. Today he was pretty good against a tough crew.”
Gonzaga had 11 turnovers in the first half, but just three in the second.
“I was disappointed how soft we were,” Few said, adding that Texas Southern won too many contested balls. “We need to toughen up physically.”
Demontrae Jefferson scored 20 points for Texas Southern (0-1), which is playing its first 13 games on the road against some of the nation’s top teams. Their first home game is Jan. 1, 2018.
Donte’ Clark and Trayyvon Reed scored 13 points each for the Tigers, who were held to 36 percent shooting.
“We were overmatched and overwhelmed,” Texas Southern coach Mike Davis said. “Gonzaga was shooting great and getting to the offensive glass.”
The Zags had 20 offensive rebounds.
Texas Southern jumped to a quick 10-6 lead. But Gonzaga scored 13 consecutive points for a 19-10 lead midway through the first half. They pushed the lead to 14 points, where it remained for much of the half.
A 12-2 run at the end of the half, including two 3-pointers by Perkins, put Gonzaga ahead 52-31 at halftime.
The Zags made nine 3-pointers in the first half and shot 58 percent. Texas Southern shot just 33 percent in the first half, and made just 1 of 13 from 3-point range.
The teams traded baskets in the second half, with the Tigers unable to overcome their deficit.
Gonzaga has never lost a home opener in the McCarthey Athletic Center since it opened in 2004. Few has won all 19 of his home openers with the Zags, who opened 29-0 last season.