Gonzaga will probably run into zone defenses next week at the PK80 Invitational in Portland.
The Zags won’t go into the prestigious holiday tournament unprepared.
The 17th-ranked Zags took a long test drive against Howard’s zone in a 106-69 victory Tuesday at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Texas Southern also slapped a zone on Gonzaga at times in last week’s season opener.
The Bison were aggressive on the perimeter, springing traps, and also tried some modest full-court pressure. It wasn’t much of a test with the 37-point final margin, but it did afford the Zags plenty of time to refine their zone offense.
“You don’t see that often,” GU coach Mark Few said of an opponent playing mostly zone. “We could very well see that in the PK80. Duke (on the opposite half of GU in the PK80 bracket) was playing exclusively zone (vs. Michigan State on Tuesday). Utah State (Gonzaga’s opponent Saturday) will play zone.”
Gonzaga struck from distance early with a pair of 3-pointers from Josh Perkins and Corey Kispert. The Zags moved the ball well and had no trouble finding open shooters. They piled up 10 assists and 39 points with 7:24 left in the half.
Gonzaga easily handled Howard’s early full-court pressure.
“They put us through a lot of situations we might see down the road,” GU senior forward Johnathan Williams said. “I feel like we handled it pretty well.”
When the Zags’ shots didn’t fall, they pushed the Bison around on the boards. Freshman center Jacob Larsen had three of Gonzaga’s 11 offensive boards in the first half. GU finished with 16 offensive rebounds – there weren’t that many to retrieve with a 57-percent shooting clip – and 20 second-chance points.
The only hiccup of the first 20 minutes was five charging fouls accounting for five of the eight turnovers.
“They pretty much zoned every minute I was in there,” Perkins said. “We got some open looks. We’ve got some shooters on this team. Just taking these games and getting confidence from them.”
The Bison went man-to-man at the outset of the second half, but it was hard to tell because Gonzaga repeatedly beat them down the floor in transition.
The Zags made 14 of 35 3-pointers for their second game with double-figure 3s. Perkins, Kispert and freshman guards Zach Norvell Jr. and Jesse Wade all had three 3s.
Norvell turned it around after missing all five of his first-half attempts. He made 7 of 9 shots in the second half, scoring 17 points in 13 minutes.
“For sure,” said Norvell, when asked if he gained confidence when his first shot found the net, “but I always feel my shot is going in, any shot I take. That’s just me, my background.”
The Zags didn’t abandon their interior scoring. Larsen handed out four assists as he connected with cutters in the lane. Williams had four field goals in the paint and went to the foul line 11 times.
“They were playing zone and kind of playing off us, and we’ve got some guys that can shoot it,” Few said. “I thought we had a good (inside/outside) mix.”
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