Steven Gray scores 25 as Gonzaga starts season by ripping Southern

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Steven Gray, Gonzaga's lone senior, scored 25 points to lead the 12th-ranked Bulldogs in their season opener. After the game, however, Gray was praising the play of freshman Mathis Monninghoff.

"To see him come out in the first game and just shoot with total confidence was really good to see," Gray said. "I hope it can carry over through the weekend and through the start of the season."

Monninghoff and Gray combined to go 9 of 12 from 3-point range and Monninghoff finished with 12 points to lead Gonzaga to a 117-72 win over Southern University on Friday night.

Gray had nine assists and Gonzaga had six players score in double figures. Sam Dower scored 15 points, Elias Harris added 12, Robert Sacre contributed 11 and Kelly Olynyk finished with 10.

Madut Bol led Southern with 12 points, while Julius Ingram, Patrick Coleman and Jameel Grace all scored nine. The Jaguars shot 41.1 percent from the field.

The Bulldogs led 56-30 at halftime and extended the lead to 91-50 with 7:57 remaining. Gonzaga, which had all 12 players see action, led by as many as 48 points.

"It was a good first game," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "We obviously shot the ball well and that cures the ills."

Gonzaga started slow, holding a 22-20 lead with 9:55 remaining in the first half. But the Bulldogs woke up and went on a 31-7 run over the last 7:45 of the half to take a 56-30 lead.

"They came out and hit a lot of shots, playing really confident," Gray said. "It was nice to see this team not crumble, not get worried over that."

Gonzaga used its taller lineup to wear down the Jaguars. Gonzaga started two 7-footers, Sacre and Olynyk, and controlled the paint by holding a 57-16 rebounding margin. Gonzaga made 13 of 22 3-pointers and shot 54.2 percent (39 of 71) from the field.

Southern didn't have the size to battle Gonzaga in the paint with their tallest starter, Quinton Doggett, listed at 6-8.

"Coming into the ballgame tonight, I knew it was going to be tough for us around the boards," Southern coach Rob Spivery said. "Scoring, as well as rebounding the basketball. Tonight they just killed us on the boards."

Gonzaga and Southern had never faced each other though the programs are familiar because Southern's athletic director, Greg LaFleur, is the father of Sacre, Gonzaga's center. LaFleur was a tight end in the NFL from 1981-86.

"It was nice of his dad to put this together," Few said. "[LaFleur] arrived here early and was able to spend some time with [Robert]."

Gonzaga returned four starters from last season but lost Matt Bouldin, their leader and top scorer, to graduation. The backcourt is the big question mark heading into the season.

The Bulldogs went 27-7 last season, 12-2 in the West Coast Conference, and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Gonzaga is coming off its 10th straight West Coast Conference championship.

This was the first of three games in five days for Gonzaga. IUPUI comes to town on Sunday, followed by San Diego State on Tuesday. Southern travels to Washington State on Saturday.