The spotlight was squarely on Nigel Williams-Goss when the ex-Washington Husky faced his former team Wednesday wearing a Gonzaga No. 5 uniform.
Williams-Goss delivered, scoring 23 points, the most in a game by a Zag this season.
It turned out several spotlights were appropriate, for Gonzaga’s guards alone.
Jordan Mathews, Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Williams-Goss combined for 55 points, 16 rebounds, 15 assists, 7-of-11 3-point shooting, 12 of 14 free throws, two blocks, two steals and just four turnovers in 109 minutes.
Mathews softened up Washington’s defense with a pair of early 3-pointers.
“We allowed Jordan to get away from us,” said UW coach Lorenzo Romar, whose team absorbed a 98-71 loss. “He hit a few 3s that really sparked them and opened things up in that first half. That kind of got them going.”
Perkins handed out five assists, including a three-quarters-court dish to Przemek Karnowski for a dunk after a made Huskies basket.
“We’re built inside-out, but yet our perimeters can really shoot it,” Zags coach Mark Few said. “Perkins did a great job. He managed the game, just took what they gave him and spread it around, fed the bigs, found the guards for toed-up 3s and did a great job of taking care of the basketball.”
It wasn’t only on the offensive end. Melson, who knocked down a pair of 3s and had three assists and three rebounds, and Williams-Goss shared time guarding Washington standout freshman Markelle Fultz.
Fultz scored 19 of his 25 points in the second half when the Zags were comfortably ahead.
“I thought most of his shots were pretty tough until the very end there,” Few said. “We did a nice job of knowing where he was at all times and I thought our bigs did a nice job on ball-screen coverage.”
Williams-Goss scored in multiple ways: backdoor cuts, drives to the rim, an assortment of floaters and one 3-pointer.
“We knew some of the stuff they were trying to do defensively,” he said. “We put in a couple new sets just to try to counter some of the stuff they were trying to do. We just executed really well.”
Pluses and few minuses
The Zags (9-0) sport an unbeaten record and a No. 8 ranking. They defeated Washington by 27 points on the heels of a solid neutral-court victory over then-No. 16 Arizona.
All good, but to hear them tell it the Zags are far from a finished product.
Karnowski, who had 12 points and six rebounds in 11 second-half minutes, applauded the team’s energy and effort that prevented Washington from getting back in the game. He mentioned that Iowa State and Arizona had mounted comebacks against the Zags.
“We need to step up and get those rebounds,” said Karnowski, referring to Washington’s 29 offensive boards. “That’s one of the minuses from the game.”
There were a few others that didn’t escape the eyes of the coaching staff.
“What I like is I think there’s room for growth,“ Few said. “I didn’t think the young bigs played like they normally have so there’s a teaching opportunity there. We didn’t quite rebound the way we expect to around here.”
Gonzaga outrebounds opponents by 4.6 per game but has been outboarded by 20 in the last two games.
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