Zags take care of business against Mississippi Valley State and Arizona
By Dylan Kitzan/For The Independent
For the Gonzaga Bulldogs, 8-0 and ranked eighth in the country has a pretty nice ring to it.
Coming off three big wins to take down the Advocare Invitational, the Bulldogs predictably took care of business against a winless Mississippi Valley State team at home, winning 97-63 on Thursday, Dec. 1, setting up a showdown against the Arizona Wildcats and an opportunity to get back in the win column against a team that has traditionally had its number.
Arizona and Gonzaga have been mentioned among almost all “Best in the West” discussions since the Zags became big time almost 20 years ago. Yet when the two teams meet, the Wildcats typically come out on top. In 2000, 2003, 2008, March 2014, December 2014 and again in 2016, Arizona dealt Gonzaga a loss, while the Bulldogs had just a 2011 victory at the Battle in Seattle to hang its hat on. Needless to say, if the Zags wanted an opportunity to get the job done, Saturday, Dec. 3 was it. The Wildcats were without their starting point guard and considering the Bulldogs’ depth, they had a sizable advantage at nearly every position on the court.
Well, like they did against Iowa State, the Zags jumped out to a big early lead against Arizona and, like they did against Iowa State, the Zags let that lead dwindle in the second half. However, like they did against Iowa State, the Zags held on long enough to defeat another ranked foe, defeating the Wildcats 69-62.
Arizona had no answer for Przemek Karnowski, who is establishing himself as a major problem for opponents in his return from back surgery. The senior led the way with 18 points, taking advantage of the Wildcats’ preference to guard him one-on-one to make nine of his 13 shots.
The guards continued to torch opponents from all over the court, with Jordan Mathews and Nigel Williams-Goss each hitting an outside shot early to jump out to a quick lead that they would never relinquish. Mathews and Williams-Goss each ended up scoring 10 points and fellow guard Josh Perkins added 16 as Gonzaga kept displaying the ability to beat teams from any position on the court.
What makes the Bulldogs elite isn’t just the luxury coach Mark Few has to send eight, nine or 10 guys on the court over the course of a game to eat up minutes, but the fact that those players can do damage rather than simply hold the fort while they’re out there. Silas Melson scored 15 off the bench in the win over Mississippi Valley State, Zach Collins added 13 and Rui Hachimura notched 10.
This season, it hasn’t been so much “It’s always someone” as it has been “It’s always everyone.” Karnowski has done a magnificent job kicking the ball out when the situation dictates it, but the guards have been unselfish as well, moving the ball until they have the shot they want. And that is so important when you’re talking about a team comprised significantly of new faces. Five of their top eight scorers are either freshmen or transfers, so the sooner all the pieces of the puzzle come together (and they’re doing so very quickly) the better this team is going to be in the long run.
This week, the Zags look to move to a perfect 10-0 when they face another familiar Pac-12 nemesis in the Washington Huskies on Wednesday before a meeting with the Akron Zips on Saturday.