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Josh Perkins finds scoring touch in Gonzaga’s NCAA Tournament opener

BOISE – Gonzaga had a tough storm to weather against UNC Greensboro on Thursday, when the Bulldogs barely got through to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 68-64 win.

For the majority of the game, the Zags were forced outside by a tough UNCG defense that made it difficult for Gonzaga’s bigs to get makes at the rim. Forwards Johnathan Williams and Killian Tillie turned to the guards for help.

Josh Perkins became the primary backup plan when the bigs couldn’t break through. They found him early in the game for a jumper and a long 3-pointer that gave the Zags their first lead.

“They have a different post coverage that our bigs weren’t used to,” Perkins said. “No team has really done that, so I had the opportunity to step up and make shots.”

In the second half, Perkins got more comfortable in taking over for the post when needed. He took passes that were thrown to him from inside when the Spartans crowded the paint. He nailed a few shots that kept the Zags from spiraling, including a long jumper near the top of the arc that tied the score at 64 with less than a minute left.

When the Spartans doubled up on the post, Perkins found ways to break in for a few close-range buckets, including a steal and breakaway layup in the second half.

Perkins went 7 for 14 from the field and finished the day with 16 points and two rebounds, a flip from his performance at the West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas last week. In that tournament, he dished out 22 assists in three games and scored 19 total points.

But Perkins was forced to adjust that offensive strategy against a noticeably heavier defense on Thursday and take the open shots himself.

“Seemed like they were flooding us,” Perkins said. “There weren’t assist opportunities so I just had to be aggressive scoring-wise.”

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

UPDATED: 12:31 a.m.

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