SPOKANE — Gary Bell Jr. had an abbreviated offseason to allow a knee injury and a stress fracture in his ankle time to recover following a grueling 2012-13 season.
Bell spent part of his summer wearing a protective boot. When the boot came off, he still wasn’t able to run for several more weeks.
One thing he could work on was his shooting and the junior guard displayed that again Sunday, draining four 3-pointers in Gonzaga’s 86-51 victory over Coppin State in front of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“Shooting is pretty much all I did,” said Bell, who hit 4 of 9 3s and scored a team-high 15 points against the visitors from Baltimore. “For four weeks all I could do was stand-still shooting and it didn’t bother me. Once that was up I could jump and shoot, I just couldn’t run.”
Bell is shooting 54.2 percent beyond the 3-point arc and nearly 57 percent overall. Gonzaga (7-1) made 50 percent of its shots against the Eagles (2-4). That was actually GU’s second-lowest percentage of the season.
The Bulldogs drained 12 3-pointers, their sixth game in eight outings with double-figure 3s. They’ve made 37 3s in their last three games.
“We can shoot, that’s pretty much an established fact now,” head coach Mark Few said. “Shooting cures a lot of ills. We’re going to have to continue to work on making sure our bigs are doing the little things so we can get baskets when we’re not shooting well.”
The 11th-ranked Bulldogs were coming off a 2-1 showing at the EA Sports Maui Invitational, which, coupled with a shorter-than-usual turnaround, factored into the scouting report.
“Coach Few was talking to us about not having a Maui hangover because a bunch of teams go through that where they don’t play as hard or bring it in their next game,” said sophomore guard Kyle Dranginis, who had 12 points and four rebounds. “We put an emphasis on that, even though our student section wasn’t full and there wasn’t as much energy in the gym. We kind of had to bring our own energy.”
Kevin Pangos’ 3-pointer put Gonzaga on the board first and the Bulldogs never trailed. Gonzaga ran off nine unanswered points and used a 24-6 stretch to build a 23-point lead with 4:05 left in the first half.
Coppin State was 6 of 28 (21.4 percent) in the first half and made just one field goal over an 8:35 stretch.
“They didn’t play the first half with the aggressiveness they’re capable of having,” Eagles coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell said. “Maybe they were reading the other team’s clips.”
Coppin State, a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, scored the first six points of the second half, but never found the range from long distance, finishing 2 of 18. Bell dropped in three 3s as Gonzaga’s lead ballooned to 28. The 35-point victory was Gonzaga’s largest of the season.
Gerard Coleman (14 points) and Sam Dower Jr. (11) joined Bell and Dranginis in double figures. Dower and Przemek Karnowski each had eight rebounds as Gonzaga won the boards, 45-32.
Pangos had six of Gonzaga’s 19 assists.
The Bulldogs will enjoy some downtime before stepping up preparations for New Mexico State’s visit on Saturday.
“Our guys just need to rest our legs a little bit,” Dranginis said. “Everyone is tired, even some of the bench guys are tired. I think it’ll be good for us.”
Freshman center Ryan Edwards, sidelined after having his tonsils removed prior to the season opener versus Bryant, made his season debut.
Edwards, who lost nearly 40 pounds, scored five points in six minutes.