The Zags' big win over then-No. 1 Duke has vaulted them back into the top spot in the top 25 rankings for the first time since Jan. 2017.
SPOKANE – Gonzaga is sitting on top of the college-basketball world.
The Zags, on the strength of Wednesday’s 89-87 victory over former No. 1 Duke in the Maui Invitational championship game, moved into the No. 1 spot in The Associated Press media poll and USA Today coaches poll Monday.
Gonzaga (7-0), previously ranked third, edged Kansas (5-0) in voting by the AP 65-member panel. The Zags went from zero AP first-place votes last week to 32 this week; Kansas received 31 first-place votes.
This is the third time in seven seasons the Zags have reached No. 1 in the AP poll. After a 22-0 start, they took over the top spot in the Jan. 30, 2017, poll and held it for four weeks before losing their regular-season finale to Brigham Young.
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Gonzaga’s first ascent to No. 1 came late in the 2013 season. The Zags, with a 29-2 record, took the top spot from Indiana on March 4.
Gonzaga has a demanding schedule in the first half of December. The Zags visit Creighton on Saturday, host Washington on Dec. 5, meet No. 6 Tennessee on Dec. 9 in Phoenix and play at No. 11 North Carolina on Dec. 15.
Duke dropped to No. 3 in the AP poll, with Virginia and Nevada completing the top five.
North Dakota State a pushover for Zags
North Dakota State didn’t pose much trouble for the host Zags on Monday night.
Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura each scored 18 points as Gonzaga beat the Bison 102-60.
“Mission accomplished,” Zags coach Mark Few said.
Few had worried about his team having a letdown after the Duke victory, in part because of the long trip home. But that didn’t happen.
“They were mature in their approach,” Few said. “Josh Perkins did a great job of settling us down, especially on the offensive end. “
Gonzaga also did a good job on defense, holding North Dakota State to 4-of-27 shooting from three-point range. Corey Kispert added 17 points and Zach Norvell Jr. had 15 for the Zags, who shot 63.8 percent, including 15 of 28 from three-point range.
Vinnie Shahid scored 16 points for North Dakota State (2-5), which shot 36 percent in the game. Cameron Hunter and Deng Geu each added 12.
“Some games you just have to throw away and move on,” Bison coach David Richman said. “That’s what we have to do with this one.”
Clarke made all nine of his field-goal attempts and added eight rebounds and five blocks for Gonzaga. Six Zags scored in double figures.
“He’s playing with great energy,” Few said of Clarke. “He’s protecting the rim and really being active on the offensive end.”
Clarke said the Zags need to keep perspective.
“We have to keep on playing tough,” Clarke said. “Don’t let that ranking get to us. I felt I was taking shots that I can make pretty easily. I wasn’t forcing shots.”
West Coast Conference ruler Gonzaga has beaten four teams from Power Five conferences already this season, and came in averaging 97 points per game to 71 for the Bison. North Dakota State led 19-18.
Gonzaga replied with a 19-0 run, making seven consecutive field goals. Clarke had 10 points and Perkins made a pair of three-pointers in the flurry.
Gonzaga later embarked on a 16-3 run to take a 53-25 lead at halftime. The Zags shot 72.5 percent (21 of 29) in the first half.
Gonzaga students chanted “we want Cleveland” in the final minutes, a reference to the NBA Cavaliers.
• Junior forward Hachimura was honored as West Coast Conference player of the week for the second time in three weeks.
Hachimura was named the Maui Invitational Most Outstanding Player after averaging 22.3 points (on 54.5 percent shooting from the field) and 6.0 rebounds in Gonzaga’s three victories in Hawaii.
• Not all the news was good Monday for the Zags. Senior Geno Crandall, who has been the team’s first guard off the bench, will miss from four to six weeks after suffering a fractured right hand in practice Monday. The transfer from North Dakota is averaging 5 points, 2.3 assists and 18.2 minutes.