With No. 1 Gonzaga about to embark on a journey through the West Coast Conference that will feature very few, if any, games against ranked opponents, the Bulldogs made an emphatic statement on Saturday about why they deserve to remain the nation's top-ranked team in the weeks ahead. Pitted against a stingy Virginia defense, the Zags shot a staggering 60% from the field and blew out the No. 16 Cavaliers 98-75 in a neutral-site game at Dickie's Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.
Corey Kispert led the way for Gonzaga (7-0) with a career-high 32 points in a game that was never truly in doubt. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first 76 seconds and never trailed as their high-powered offense ran with impressive efficiency against a Virginia defense perennially regarded as one of the best in the country. Center Drew Timme contributed 29 points, also a career high, to help Kispert, while Kihei Clark paced Virginia with 19 points.
Virginia likely never stood a chance, but the Cavaliers' efforts were stifled by foul trouble that limited 7-foot-1 post player Jay Huff to just 14 minutes. His frequent absence allowed Gonzaga to outscore Virginia 46-28 in the paint. It was the most points Virginia has allowed in a game since allowing 106 against Washington in 2010. The loss dropped Virginia to 4-2 ahead of Wednesday's scheduled start to conference play at Notre Dame. Here are three more takeaways from this battle in Fort Worth.
Kispert's career game
Kispert's senior season was already off to a prolific start, but he kicked it into another gear on Saturday. After averaging 13.9 points last season and testing the NBA Draft waters, the 6-foot-7 forward entered as Gonzaga's leading scorer at 20.8 points per game, thanks in part to a 45.9% 3-point shooting mark. Those numbers are only going to go up after he hit 9-of-13 from 3-point range against Virginia, tying a school record for most made 3-pointers in a game.
Kispert has scored at least 13 points in every game this season. Though his 3-point shooting will draw attention, his efficiency in attacking the basket is just as impressive. He entered shooting 77.8% this season on six 2-point attempts per game and made both his attempts from inside the arc on Saturday.
Jalen Suggs entered as Gonzaga's third-leading scorer averaging 16.3 points per game. But the electric freshman guard didn't get his first bucket until the 12-minute mark of Saturday's second half. The fact that Gonzaga put forth such an impressive offensive effort without Suggs shouldering a heavy scoring load is an indication of just how lethal this team is.
For his part, Suggs made plenty of contributions in other areas. He finished with seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and eventually got around to scoring eight points. Suggs also finished with a team-best plus/minus of 36, highlighting how he impacted the game despite a subdued offensive effort.
The most anyone scored against Virginia last season was 80 points, and that was an aberration as the Cavaliers held their opponent to 70 points or less in their 29 other games. But coach Tony Bennett told reporters after the game that he did not regret scheduling Gonzaga, despite the outcome.
"This was important but painful," Bennett said.
The Cavaliers had games against Michigan State and Villanova wiped out due to COVID-19 issues in the program, leaving this game against Gonzaga as the program's last chance to get a quality nonconference game in before league play starts on Wednesday.