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Gonzaga Basketball

Cal transfer Jordan Mathews finds winning formula at top-ranked Gonzaga

Guard Jordan Mathews discovered the perfect chemistry at Gonzaga. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Guard Jordan Mathews discovered the perfect chemistry at Gonzaga. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Jordan Mathews’ scoring average and shot attempts – 3-pointers, 2-pointers, free throws – are down from his junior season at Cal.

His win totals and happiness are way, way up.

It has required sacrifice from everyone in top-ranked Gonzaga’s rotation and throughout the roster for that zero to remain unchanged in the loss column for three-plus months.

“For me, it means not necessarily scoring as much, but we are winning at a high clip,” said Mathews, who will be honored along with Przemek Karnowski and Rem Bakamus on Senior Night against BYU on Saturday. “It’s not a big tradeoff. I’d rather score 10 points and win than 20 points and lose.”

Mathews wasn’t quite scoring 20 per game at Cal, but he did average 13.5 points and 2.6 made 3-pointers per game as a junior. The Bears reached the NCAA tournament last season and had a talented roster returning, but Mathews wanted a change.

The graduate transfer has found what he was looking for in terms of fit, style of play, chemistry and victories. It didn’t hurt that he’s known Gonzaga assistant coach Donny Daniels for as long as he can remember. Daniels and Mathews’ father, Phil, former coach at San Francisco, are close friends.

“Other schools were involved, but I kind of knew I was coming to Gonzaga after my visit,” Mathews said. “I’m really glad I made the choice.”

Mathews’ smooth 3-point stroke meshes with Karnowski’s passing ability out of double-teams and the play-making of guards Nigel Williams-Goss and Josh Perkins.

Mathews quickly made the choice to improve his defense while displaying the cerebral play at the offensive end that symbolized his three seasons at Cal. He’s averaging more steals and fewer fouls than last season.

“I’m really working on it,” he said, “and really caring about stopping someone as opposed to just wanting to get the ball back in my hands.”

He doesn’t expect his calm disposition to change during Senior Night festivities. Mathews’ mom, sister and two uncles will be on hand. Phil, now the coach at Riverside (California) City College, has a game Saturday and Jordan’s younger brother Jonah, a freshman at USC, is on the Arizona road trip.

“It’s definitely flown by,” Mathews said. “A lot of great experiences. I’m not sad or nostalgic. I’m more happy about the whole thing.

“I’ll be more low-key (Saturday). I moved around a lot, I’m used to making changes. My dad was a coach. We moved seven or eight times.”

Mathews didn’t arrive on campus until late August, but said he’s “as tight (with teammates) as you can be in this amount of time.” They welcomed him with open arms, even those who lost playing time because of Mathews’ arrival.

That probably explains why he didn’t hesitate when asked if he feels like a Zag.

“Yeah, I do,” Mathews said. “I feel like a Zag, even though I’ve only been here six months.”