SAN DIEGO — For the first 20 minutes Saturday night, Rui Hachimura and the Gonzaga Bulldogs looked pretty average.
Once they got warmed up, there was no doubt they’re one of the nation’s best teams.
Hachimura scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half and had 10 rebounds and No. 3 Gonzaga tightened its defense and pulled away in the second half to beat San Diego 79-67 for its 16th straight victory.
Zach Norvell Jr. added 18 points, Josh Perkins 15 and Brandon Clarke 14 for the Bulldogs (25-2, 12-0 West Coast). The nation’s highest scoring team, Gonzaga had only 30 points in the first half, but then scored 31 points in the first 9:59 of the second half to take control.
“We came back with a good energy from the beginning of the second half and we definitely had a good defense,” Hachimura said.
Gonzaga shot 69 percent (20 of 29) in the second half to finish at 58.2 percent (32 of 55).
Coach Mark Few said the difference for Hachimura was that “he started playing harder and being more assertive and not settling. He’s really, really good when he does that. When he goes back to settling and not playing as hard, he’s not very good. That’s kind of true for all players.”
Gonzaga took the lead for good during an 8-0 run early in the second half, getting a jumper from Perkins, a reverse layup by Hachimura and two baskets by Clarke for a 45-37 lead that forced Toreros coach Sam Scholl to call a timeout.
The Zags, who have won 10 straight against the Toreros, continued to pour it on behind Hachimura and Brandon Clarke. Their biggest lead was 15 points with 8:29 to play.
“We were getting stops,” Few said. “If you’re taking the ball out of the net, you can’t run. You’ve got to get stops. When we get stops, this team runs as good as any we’ve ever had. That’s a big key.”
“We knew our defense can get on pace better than offense,” Norvell said.
“We just had a different mindset starting the second half,” he added. “We were more in attack mode. They were more aggressive in the first half so in the second half we wanted to bring the fight to them and I think we did that pretty well.”
Isaiah Pineiro scored 20 points, Olin Carter III 14 and Tyler Williams 12 for San Diego (16-11, 5-7), which lost its third straight game. The Toreros dropped to 22-73 in the series with Gonzaga, including 13-31 in San Diego.
San Diego managed to tie it at 30 at halftime even though Pineiro, their leading scorer, had only two points and committed three fouls. Carter had 12 points in the first half but only two in the second.
“San Diego did a good job of disrupting our rhythm. They’re a tough out for us,” Few said. “They’re one of the hardest teams for us to play in the league. Sam’s done a great job. They’re extremely difficult for us to guard. We spend more time breaking their stuff down than anybody.”
“The thing that doesn’t get talked about enough with Gonzaga is that they play for each other, as good if not better than anybody they play against,” Scholl said. “You can see it in everything they do, the way they celebrate for each other’s baskets, the way they talk to each other on the floor, the way they come in and out on timeouts, the way they huddle. That for me is the most impressive thing. They’ve got an unbelievable amount of talent, but man do they play for each other, more than a lot of people.”
Twenty-five representatives from 19 NBA teams were credentialed for the game. The Zags are 44-4 against USD under Few.
Gonzaga plays host to Pepperdine on Thursday night.
No. 3 GONZAGA 79, SAN DIEGO 67
Kispert 3-4 1-1 8, Hachimura 10-15 2-2 22, Clarke 6-7 2-2 14, Perkins 6-12 2-4 15, Norvell 7-11 3-3 18, Jones 0-2 0-0 0, Petrusev 0-3 0-0 0, Crandall 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 32-55 12-14 79.
SAN DIEGO (16-11)
Massalski 1-3 0-0 2, Pineiro 7-18 5-6 20, Wright 2-10 4-5 9, Carter 6-14 0-0 14, Williams 4-7 0-0 12, Floresca 2-4 1-2 5, Sullivan 0-0 2-2 2, Calcaterra 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 23-58 12-15 67.
Halftime—30-30. 3-Point Goals—Gonzaga 3-14 (Kispert 1-2, Norvell 1-4, Perkins 1-6, Hachimura 0-1, Jones 0-1), San Diego 9-26 (Williams 4-6, Carter 2-6, Calcaterra 1-1, Wright 1-6, Pineiro 1-7). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Gonzaga 31 (Hachimura 10), San Diego 23 (Massalski 8). Assists—Gonzaga 13 (Perkins 9), San Diego 14 (Wright, Williams 4). Total Fouls—Gonzaga 18, San Diego 16. A—5,132 (5,100).