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Matchup allows Xavier to get a load of Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski

Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski  chases a loose ball with West Virginia guard Jevon Carter, right,  during the second half Thursday. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski chases a loose ball with West Virginia guard Jevon Carter, right, during the second half Thursday. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

SAN JOSE, Calif. – It seems like every team that doesn’t regularly play Gonzaga throughout the season meets the Zags with open mouths and wide eyes.

Their shock is usually directed toward the big fellow with an even bigger beard.

Like most teams in the postseason, Xavier has been a bit surprised at the size Przemek Karnowski brings to the post, Musketeers head coach Chris Mack said Karnowski’s 7-foot-1, 300-pound stature and his ability to move the ball has caused some concern to his team heading into the Elite Eight showing with Gonzaga on Saturday.

“He’s a load,” Mack said on Friday.

Mack compared Karnowski’s built to that of 6-10, 270-pound Matt Stainbrook, who left Xavier two years ago.

“The similarities, they’re eerie,” Mack said.

There are plenty of similarities between the two, such as size and their offensive leadership on the stat sheet.

But there are also a mound of differences, which has made scouting the GU center somewhat difficult for Xavier. Karnowski’s force in the paint and his defensive pressure at the hoop is unlike anything the Musketeers have seen this year. Mack said preparing for the big man won’t be an easy task.

“He has a great touch, a unique ability to pass from his position,” Mack said. “Gonzaga does a good job of keeping him in the rim defensively. That’s one of the reasons they have the best defense in the country by their numbers. So he’s a big challenge.”

But Mack’s players seem to be up for the challenge. Xavier freshman forward Tyrique Jones said keeping the star center down is as simple as doubling up the pressure.

“We have to come out and be tough and just contain him and make everything that he gets tough, and he has to work harder for it than we do,” Jones said on Friday. “That’s basically it.”

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