Saturday's Top 25: No. 1 Gonzaga rolls over most recent champ Virginia, 98-75

Schuyler Dixon
Associated Press
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Fort Worth, Texas — Corey Kispert and No. 1 Gonzaga didn’t get their 1-2 matchup on a neutral court with a national TV audience.

What amounted to the replacement against the most recent NCAA champion worked out just fine.

Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert (24) reacts after making a 3-point basket against Virginia during the first half.

Kispert scored a career-high 32 points and tied a school record with nine 3-pointers, leading the Zags to a 98-75 romp over 16th-ranked Virginia on Saturday.

After the Zags’ game against No. 2 Baylor in early December was called off less than 90 minutes before tipoff because of COVID-19 issues, they ended up on national TV on CBS in Baylor’s home state in their fourth game since a five-game pause because of the coronavirus.

Kispert was 9 of 13 from long range, including one about a foot from the midcourt logo followed immediately by another from several feet behind the arc in the year-old Fort Worth arena that is supposed to host the American Athletic Conference tournament in March.

“He’s as good a shooter as I’ve ever coached, and like I said, nobody’s worked as hard as Corey has at mastering his craft, and yet, he’s incredibly unselfish,” coach Mark Few said of his senior guard. “I think it’s very fitting that he’s right there in the record books for that particular stat.”

Drew Timme also had a career high with 29 points and led the Zags (7-0) with eight rebounds in a homecoming game for the former Dallas-area high school player.

Gonzaga now has the nation’s longest neutral-site winning streak at seven games and has beaten four ranked opponents before the start of conference play for the first time in school history.

Kihei Clark scored 19 points and Trey Murphy added 15 for the Cavaliers (4-2), who dropped to 1-31 all-time against top-ranked teams almost 35 years since their only victory.

The matchup of one of the best offenses in the country against one of the best defenses wasn’t much of a contest, with Gonzaga shooting 60% with superior ball movement and screening. Virginia hadn’t allowed an opponent to shoot better than 40% this season.

“We needed this,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said when asked if a 1,200-mile trip for an added game was worth it for the program that won the 2019 NCAA Tournament before last season’s event was canceled by the pandemic.

“We need to play against some teams that are high, major caliber. This was the first time and we weren’t ready for it. It was too much. You can’t hide forever. This was important but painful. I wish it wasn’t as poor of a showing as it was.”

The Zags’ offense was so efficient, Bennett tried to slow it by using a timeout three times when the media break was set for the next dead ball. The last of those came after Kispert’s two long 3s and a putback from Timme that put Gonzaga ahead 62-38 early in the second half.

“You’ve just got to be really aggressive, yet super confident,” said Kispert, who was 11 of 15 from the field. “There’s an old saying that you’re never more open than when you first catch the ball. So a lot of my shots didn’t really touch my hands for very long.”

More Top 25

►No. 6 Houston 63, (at) UCF 54: Marcus Sasser scored 19 points and Caleb Mills delivered seven of his 12 points in the closing minutes to help sixth-ranked Houston pull away.

The Cougars (7-0, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) overcame cold shooting by holding UCF (3-2, 1-1) to one field goal over the final 8:50 to remain unbeaten and deny the Knights a second win over a Top 25 opponent in a week.

As good as Houston was defensively down the stretch, though, UCF was just as tough on the Cougars. Mills was the only Houston player to score from the field in the final seven minutes, driving the baseline for a layup that made it 50-45 and adding a three-point play that put his team up 57-48 with just over a minute to go.

The Cougars went 11 for 11 from the foul line in the final 2:24 to put the game away. Dejon Jarreau hit the last four free throws to finish with 10 points.

Brandon Mahan led UCF with 13 points. Darin Green Jr. added 12.

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