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Josh Perkins, Jordan Mathews shake off slight struggles to guide No. 1 Gonzaga’s romp

SAN DIEGO – It was as if Gonzaga was allowed to diagram how it wanted the game against San Diego to unfold Thursday night.

The Zags took the home crowd out of it in the first few minutes, though perhaps 1,000 of the 5,100 jammed inside the Jenny Craig Pavilion sported Gonzaga gear.

The seven players in the rotation sat for a good chunk of the second half so they should be rested when the Zags try to wrap up an unbeaten regular season against BYU on Saturday.

Josh Perkins and Jordan Mathews, the closest thing Gonzaga has to players who are struggling, got back on track in a 96-38 bludgeoning of San Diego.

Perkins had just two double-figures scoring games in the last 12 contests. In late November and early December, the redshirt sophomore guard strung together six consecutive double-digit outings.

  • Three keys to Gonzaga’s 58-point destruction of San Diego on Thursday night

Perkins knocked down five 3-pointers, four in the first half when Gonzaga made quick work of the Toreros.

“When he’s settling in with his feet set, he makes us really good,” GU head coach Mark Few said. “For whatever reason he’s been driving a lot of kick-outs, and he’s an excellent 3-point shooter.

“We’ve been on him pretty hard this week about having his feet and hands ready. We knew they were going to have to double Przmek (Karnowski) and J3 (Johnathan Williams) because of their lack of size.”

Mathews endured a brief shooting slump and appears to be heating up again from beyond the arc. He made three 3-pointers and scored 15 points.

“The first couple didn’t go down, like the one that went in and out, I knew if I kept shooting one would go in,” Mathews said. “I got a little down on myself, which I can’t do. I have to keep shooting, that’s what the team needs me to do.”

The Zags need the same from Perkins, who also shares ball-handling duties with Nigel Williams-Goss. Perkins was one of the top 3-point shooters in the WCC last year and he’s not far off that pace this season.

But for some reason, he changed course recently.

“Just trying to catch and drive too much,” Perkins said. “I have to play to my strengths. I was shooting early in the season and it was going in. I don’t know why I changed from that. Back’s been a little tight and it wasn’t going in. Like I said, the first one felt good tonight.”

Perkins found the range early against the Toreros. The USD student section serenaded him every time he touched the ball with chants of ‘DUI,’ which has become standard in opposing WCC arenas. Perkins was charged in October with physical control of a vehicle while under the influence.

After his third 3-pointer, Perkins turned and screamed at the crowd, though he couldn’t be heard over the applause of Zags’ fans.

“I was just telling them shut up pretty much, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” Perkins said. “I mean when (crowds) do that, it fires me up and it fires my brothers up, too.”

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Analysis: Gonzaga holds off late Illinois charge to win opener of Maui Invitational

UPDATED: 12:31 a.m.

Gonzaga did something that defied all odds Monday at the Maui Invitational. The third-ranked Zags committed 14 turnovers in the first half – charges, errant inbound passes, ill-advised drives into traffic, forced passes after ill-advised drives into traffic – and still led by seven points. The Illini cut a 13-point lead to two on three occasions but the Zags held on for a hard-fought 84-78 victory before a packed crowd of 2,400 at the Lahaina Civic Center.