Fort Myers, Fla. – Just months removed from dazzling fans in Minnesota high school gyms, Jalen Suggs stepped onto the floor for his first college basketball game on Thursday — against one of the nation’s blue bloods no less.
And Suggs didn’t flinch.
The five-star standout from Minnehaha Academy and the highest-ranked recruit in Gonzaga history scored 24 points in his debut as the top-ranked Bulldogs defeated No. 6 Kansas 102-90 at the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off and before a national television audience.
Today on TV: Gonzaga vs. Auburn at 10 a.m., Ch. 9
The 6-4 Suggs, starting at guard and wearing No. 1, got in foul trouble in the first half but found his stride after intermission, scoring 17 points. For the game, he was 9-for-15 from the field (2-for-3 from three-point range) with eight assists, four rebounds, two steals and just one turnover in 23 minutes, 44 seconds of playing time.
“When I got out here today, I was going to play loose and really have fun with the game,” Suggs said. “I know when I have fun, I play a lot better, a lot looser, and that’s what I did today, especially in the second half — and came up with a great one.”
It was victory No. 1 for Suggs but No. 600 for his coach, Mark Few, in just 724 games.
“I got an ice shower in the locker, which I didn’t expect,” said Few, who has been at Gonzaga since 1999. “[Kansas coach] Bill [Self] and I set this up for a big college basketball game on Thanksgiving Day before the [Dallas] Cowboys game. That’s why we love college basketball. There’s a lot more games like this coming across the season.”
Five players scored in double figures for the Bulldogs. Drew Timme had 25 and Corey Kispert added 23 as Gonzaga won its 17th straight season opener, although none of the previous 16 had come against an opponent as high-profile as this.
The Bulldogs built a double-digit lead in the first half, then saw the Jayhawks tie it twice in the second half before putting the game away. Gonzaga went on a 22-7 run to go up 96-78.
It was the most points scored against a Self-coached Kansas team in a game decided in regulation. Villanova scored 95 in the 2018 Final Four.
Self said he believes the Bulldogs are as talented as the Kentucky team in 2014-15, which went 38-0 before losing to Wisconsin in the Final Four.
“We played a great team,” Self said. “They have four guards that will be the best guards we play all year long. … Their speed and how fast they played definitely surprised us early.”
Thanks to 62 points in the paint, the Bulldogs shot 65% from the field.
The two teams had played only once before, a 80-66 drubbing by Kansas in 1998.
This was the Jayhawks’ largest margin of loss in a season opener since 1983.