Gonzaga’s Gary Bell, Jr. (No. 5) and Colorado State’s Daniel Bejarano (No. 2) fight for a loose ball during the first half of Gonzaga’s 93-61 win on Monday.
SPOKANE — Gary Bell Jr. has an understated efficiency to his game, never looking out of control, rarely appearing to force shots.
Nothing changed Monday. Well, except the understated part.
Bell made eight 3-pointers en route to a career-high 24 points, leading 15th-ranked Gonzaga to an impressive 93-61 non-conference basketball victory over Colorado State in front of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Asked how big the basket looked, Bell smiled and said, “It might have been the size of this (circular) locker room. Naw, I’m just kidding.”
The game was barely 15 seconds old when Przemek Karnowski kicked a pass out to Bell, who buried his first 3-pointer.
“We knew they were going to pack their defense in because of the high-low,” Bell said. “We knew what was coming, we just had to get our feet ready and knock them down.”
Bell made three 3s in the first half and opened the second half with back-to-back 3s. Bell and Kevin Pangos hit again from long distance, capping a 23-0 run spanning the end of the first half and the start of the second that put Gonzaga on top 63-26.
Bell was made aware that he was one short of the school record shared by Pangos and Dan Dickau when he entered with 7:33 left. He misfired on three shots, finishing the night 8 of 13 beyond the arc.
“If he’s on fire, it’s going to take a lot of water to put that out,” said wing Gerard Coleman, who was instant offense again off the bench, scoring 16 points in 21 minutes. “He reminds me of Mitch Richmond. You remember that guy, from the Sacramento Kings? Quick release, kind of stocky, they’re both 6-2. He can definitely light it up.”
Coach Mark Few has asked Bell to hunt more shots.
“He played great against Bryant; I think he had 14 points on five” field-goal attempts, Few said. “The part I liked was how much he’s grown playing with ball screens. In the past, David (Stockton) and Kevin have been the ones that really exploited them.”
Bell had plenty of company on the offensive end as the Zags made 14 of 31 3-pointers – despite cooling off in the final 8 minutes – and 57.6 percent of their field-goal attempts.
Coleman got loose on the break and penetrated from the wing, making 7 of 10 shots. Pangos scored 13 points in 19 foul-plagued minutes. Stockton had 10 points, four assists and two steals. Karnowski, playing on a tender ankle, and Sam Dower Jr. combined for 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting and 19 rebounds.
“It (the video) will show we didn’t execute and more importantly we just got out-physicaled big-time, and that’s been a trait of our team, being more physical,” Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy said. “It’s a combination of brand new guys and who we played. They made a lot of contested shots. I’ll be anxious to follow them and see if they make half of their (3-point attempts), but they’re a good team and supposed to go deep in the tournament and I can see why.”
CSU guard Jon Octeus tried to keep the Rams (1-1) close in the first half, but he had little help. Octeus finished with 27 points – 13 coming at the free-throw line – but no one else reached double figures. J.J. Avila and Daniel Bejarano, who combined for 32 points in CSU’s opener, scored 11 points on 4-of-19 shooting.
The Rams made just 32 percent from the field goals and had more turnovers (nine) than assists (eight).
Gonzaga (2-0) outrebounded CSU 39-33, led by Karnowski’s career-high 10.