Gonzaga’s 2-0 start has produced several positive indicators beyond the box scores.
Center Przemek Karnowski continues to impress in his return from back surgery. Wing Jordan Mathews, as advertised, has a silky stroke behind the 3-point arc. Freshman forwards Zach Collins and Killian Tillie bring more than just points and rebounds.
The 14th-ranked Zags entertain Bryant (1-1) on Friday trying to build on momentum generated from comfortable wins over Utah Valley and San Diego State.
Karnowski is averaging 11 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1 block in 19 minutes per game. The big man absorbed a hard fall early in the San Diego State game and quickly moved on to the next play.
“The back was pretty good,” said Karnowski, who estimates he’s 80-85 percent healthy. “I just slammed my hand really bad on the floor, but it’s going to be fine.”
Karnowski had two assists against the Aztecs, a behind-his-head flip to Johnathan Williams for a dunk and a kick-out to Mathews for an open 3-pointer.
“He’s really made a big jump in probably the last 10 days,” GU head coach Mark Few said. “He’s making moves he wasn’t making prior to the surgery. He actually went for a steal in our press. He hasn’t done that since high school or something.”
Collins replaced Karnowski roughly five minutes into the first half and Tillie subbed in for Williams about a minute later. The two freshmen went to work at both ends of the court as GU promptly outscored the Aztecs 15-2.
Their combined totals: 23 points, 18 rebounds, three assists, three blocks, six steals, zero turnovers in 41 minutes.
“At times we’ve been a little bit of a stoic group and we’ve been on those guys to bring it,” Few said. “It’s in Zach, but we have to encourage him to bring it out. Killian just plays like that. When he plays basketball, he just goes for it.”
Mathews probably can’t maintain his 3-point pace (9 of 14, 64.3 percent), but his perimeter shooting will be prominent on opponents’ scouting reports. Mathews has seven assists and no turnovers in 55 minutes.
Few said Mathews has improved on defense and “it’s great to have a guy that on game night almost raises his game up.”
Mathews and the Zags’ inside presence should work well together, creating space to operate.
“I’ve always been able to get shots, whether it be contested or wide open,” said Mathews, who made 102 3-pointers at Cal. “It’s my job to put them away. Coach (Few) told me one time after a shot, ‘We’re going to get you open ones. That’s never going to be an issue, just be patient.’ ”
Sophomore point guard Josh Perkins played 25 minutes against San Diego State in his return from a two-game suspension. He had a steal, two assists and hit a 3-pointer in his first five minutes.
“Missed it more than anything,” said Perkins, who was charged last month with physical control of a vehicle while under the influence. “That’s a good team we beat, lot of credit to them, but this team is special.
“I can’t put it into words how appreciative I am to be back out there with my brothers.”
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