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Nembhard’s season-high 22 leads No. 11 Gonzaga past Bakersfield

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Gonzaga guard Ryan Nembhard (0) shoots while pressured by Cal State Bakersfield forward Fidelis Okereke during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, in Spokane, Wash. Gonzaga won 81-65.
Gonzaga guard Ryan Nembhard (0) shoots while pressured by Cal State Bakersfield forward Fidelis Okereke during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, in Spokane, Wash. Gonzaga won 81-65. (AP Photo/Young Kwak) Photo Gallery

SPOKANE — Ryan Nembhard scored a season-high 22 points and Anton Watson added 11 points and 13 rebounds as No. 11 Gonzaga beat Cal State Bakersfield 81-65 on Tuesday night.

Six players scored in double figures for the Bulldogs (5-1). Nolan Hickman had 13 points and freshman Dusty Stromer finished with a season-high 10.

Coming off three standout performances at the Maui Invitational that earned him West Coast Conference player of the week honors, Watson was held to a season low in points but made up for it with his work on the boards.

“He was great. I told him that afterwards,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “The plays he makes, the way he competes — what can I say? He’s a winner, and he made a lot of winning plays tonight.”

Watson also got plenty of help in the scoring department. Braden Huff added 12 points off the bench and Graham Ike had 11.

It wasn’t a fluid effort for the Bulldogs in their first game back after playing three times in three days in Hawaii. Gonzaga went 2-1 at the tournament with wins over Syracuse and UCLA, and a loss to No. 1 Purdue.

Few noted that several members of the traveling party picked up an illness upon returning from Hawaii.

“Obviously that game was not our A game. We had some choppiness and that’s due to Bakersfield competing,” Few said. “They competed in every phase, and on a night like tonight you’ve got to buckle down and go make plays.”

The Bulldogs went through several shooting droughts against the Roadrunners, including a seven-minute stretch of the first half. But Gonzaga used an 11-2 run in the second half to break open the game, and Hickman’s layup gave the Bulldogs their largest lead at 70-48.

Top scorer Kaleb Higgins led the Roadrunners (3-4) with 21 points, and Modestas Kancleris added 12. Cal State Bakersfield pulled within 13 in the closing minutes but got no closer.

“We weren’t as focused as we needed to be, but at the end of the day a win is a win,” Nembhard said. “We’ll move forward and get right. Our defense is in a great place and we’re going to keep working on our offense.”

UP NEXT

Gonzaga plays USC on Saturday in Las Vegas.

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