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SPOKANE, Wash. – Bryant University basketball coach Tim O'Shea knew it was a tall order to open the Bulldogs' season at 15th-ranked Gonzaga on Saturday.
The Zags had Bryant outsized up front, play before a rabid fan base and featured a veteran starting lineup.
It added up to a 100-76 loss for O'Shea's team.
"Look, you never like to lose a game, but we knew the reality of playing a team like Gonzaga out here was going to be challenging," O'Shea said. "I think we got a lot out of it. Sometimes (when) you get exposed a little bit in certain areas, it can really get a great focus going into practice."
Though guard Dyami Starks led all scorers with a career-high 35 points, Bryant struggled with the Gonzaga front line, most notably 6-foot-9 post Sam Dower. The senior led GU with 21 points and pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds as Gonzaga controlled the boards, 39-30.
"We don't have the type of size," Gonzaga has, O'Shea said. "But then again, you are talking about a team that has aspirations, legitimate aspirations for a Final Four vs. a Program that is in its second year of full Division 1 membership."
Alex Francis added 13 for Bryant, giving him 1,503 in his stellar career.
"He's a kid who's been a mainstay," O'Shea said. "He came in when we weren't eligible for any type of postseason and here it is, four years later, and he has a pretty good chance to end his career with 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
"It was tough tonight because the size differential in this game was just so much for him. And when they double him, you've got a 7-1 guy and a 6-9 guy closing on him. It was hard for him to get to the rim and that's probably what he does best."
Complimenting Dower's efforts, Gerard Coleman, a transfer from Providence, scored 15 points for Gonzaga. Junior guards Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos added 14 apiece, and 7-1 post Przemek Karnowski had 10 points despite playing only 12 minutes due to foul trouble.
Nine players scored for Gonzaga.
It was the first meeting between Gonzaga, defending West Coast Conference champions and picked by the league's coaches to repeat, and Bryant of the Northeast Conference. The NEC coaches tabbed Bryant to finish second in the conference in their preseason poll.
Bryant shot 35.6 from beyond the arc during their 19-12 season a year ago but made just one of their 12 first-half attempts as Gonzaga built a 49-28 lead at the break. Bryant finished 4 of 21 from long range.
Starks, who shot 40.8 percent on 3-pointers last season, missed his first five attempts and was 3 of 9 for the game.
The Zags shot 54 percent from the floor and turned the ball over just eight times.
Gonzaga jumped out to a 7-0 lead and steadily built the margin throughout the first half, closing on a 5-0 run. GU increased the cushion to as many as 30 in the second half.
Gonzaga hit 21 of 28 free throws, while Bryant was 18 for 23 from the line.
Three players finished with four fouls for Bryant.