SPOKANE – Corey Kispert is the lone returning starter for No. 8 Gonzaga from last season’s NCAA Elite Eight team, and he knows many of his young teammates are looking for leadership.

The junior forward provided it Tuesday.

Kispert scored a career-high 28 points as Gonzaga used a second-half surge to beat Alabama State 95-64 in the season opener for both teams.

“Setting the tone for the team is kind of what I am trying to do,” Kispert said after making 10 of his 13 shots, including five from three-point range.

“I was in rhythm, not thinking too much,” said Kispert, who was a standout at King’s High School in Shoreline. “I let it come to me.

“That’s when the best things happen.”

Kispert knows he has to take a leadership role on a team that lost four starters to the NBA.

He said he learned how to be a leader from former teammates Johnathan Williams two years ago and Josh Perkins last year.


“I played with guys who did it well,” Kispert said.

Filip Petrusev added 15 points, Admon Gilder scored 12, and Ryan Woolridge and Drew Timme each had 11 for depleted Gonzaga, which is down to nine healthy scholarship players. The Zags have won 16 consecutive season openers.

Jacoby Ross scored 16 points for Alabama State in the first meeting between the teams.

Gonzaga led 42-30 at halftime behind 13 points from Kispert. Alabama State was hampered by 12 turnovers in the first half that led to 14 Gonzaga points. Gonzaga had a mere three turnovers in the first half.