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Dranginis clutch as Zags hold off UConn

The difference between going home with 2-1 record and a win over a ranked foe vs. a 1-2 record and losses to two ranked opponents? That would be GU senior guard Kyle Dranginis and a couple of well-timed defensive stops in the final minute.

Gonzaga blew nearly all of a 21-point second-half lead, but Dranginis's put-back basket and steal helped the Zags hold on for a 73-70 win over No. 18 Connecticut on Friday to finish third at the Battle 4 Atlantis. UConn nearly ran down the Zags, pulling within one, before Dranginis's late-game heroics.

Here's my game story.

Zags fall to Texas A&M 62-61

Gonzaga dropped its first game of the 2015-16 season, falling 62-61 to Texas A&M in a game that had the feel of a Sweet 16 contest. Here's my gamer. Whenever a game is decided by such a close margin, the what-ifs and coulda-beens are plentiful.

Such was the case for the Zags, who missed 7 of 11 free throws in the second half, one of which was the front half of a 1-and-1; committed a costly turnover inside the final minute; gave up a key offensive rebound; and couldn't keep the Aggies off the free-throw line in the last 8:10. And don't forget about a lane violation on a missed Aggies' free throw with 7:21 left. Tyler Davis hit the second-chance free throw to tie it 54.

Those were all factors in Texas A&M overcoming a 60-56 deficit. Gonzaga scored just one point in the final 5:30.

GU faces UConn in the third-place game Friday.



Zags leash Huskies 80-64

Gonzaga and Washington renewed acquaintances Wednesday and it looked a lot like it did before the series broke off nine years ago.

The Zags cruised, 80-64, over the young, talented Huskies in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Here's my game story.

I also wrote a notebook, with the first item on the GU-UW four-game series scheduled to begin next season. The question is where? In Seattle or Spokane? That still hasn't been finalized. Gonzaga wants the first Husky game to take place at the McCarthey Athletic Center since it will visit Nashville to face Tennessee, play in a holiday tournament in Orlando and is tentatively scheduled to meet Arizona in Los Angeles.


Zags, Huskies renew rivalry long way from home

Gonzaga and Washington will renew their rivalry Wednesday … roughly 2,600 miles from Spokane, 2,900 miles from Seattle … with a breakfast special 9 a.m. PST tip time (noon in the Bahamas).

It's not how either program drew it up. The matchup and time came down from the Battle 4 Atlantis/ESPN schedule-makers so GU and UW will get a head start on their long-anticipated four-game series, alternating between the teams' home floors, that begins next season.

Here's my game preview.

Read on for a few more items that didn't make the preview.


Zags rout Mount St. Mary’s

Gonzaga's final tune-up for the Battle 4 Atlantis went about as expected as the Zags roughed up visiting Mount St. Mary's 101-56 Saturday in what actually served as a preliminary round of the Bahamas tournament — as did Washington's rout of Mount St. Mary's on Thursday. John Blanchette pinch-hit for yours truly, who had an excused absence to attend my daughter's volleyball Senior Day.

Can't find Blanchette's final game story, but here's a preliminary version. Maybe I'll give him a quick call (it's 5:20 a.m.) and have him send me a link.

Next up, the Zags and Huskies renew acquaintances in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis, which prompted more from Blanchette.

Also, GU officially announced the signing of Rui Hachimura.   


Day after Northern Arizona

Back with my day-after post from Gonzaga’s 91-52 victory over Northern Arizona on Wednesday.

The links: My game story, Dan Pelle’s photo gallery (some have suggested his pictures are a tad bit better than the failed camera-phone snap from 25 rows up on press row that I posted on twitter!), and the view from the Arizona Daily Sun.

Read on for more on Sabonis, Alberts, stats and quotes.


Sabonis spurs GU’s rout of NAU

Domantas Sabonis displayed his usual power moves inside and relentless work on the boards, but he also showed off a mid-range jump shot and couple of 1-2 dribble moves en route to a career-high 26 points in Gonzaga's 91-52 rout over Northern Arizona on Wednesday.

"He's an NBA player playing in the WCC," NAU coach Jack Murphy said.

Here's my game story from Gonzaga's win and Dan Pelle's photo gallery.

Check back in the morning with a day-after post.



GU, Pitt called off due to unsafe court conditions

Gonzaga's season opener didn't last long. One half, to be exact.

Playing in the Armed Forces Classic in Okinawa, Japan, unsafe court conditions prompted game officials to call the contest off prior to the start of the second half. Pitt led 37-35 after the first half.

It was obvious in the opening minutes that players were losing their footing on the court, which was slippery from humidity and rains earlier Friday. Officials decided to call it because the court wasn't safe for the players.

More here.

Zags’ season opener arrives

There's only one chance annually to write this: It's the first game day of the season for Gonzaga.

Here's my GU-Pitt preview and one in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Zags tapped into the international recruiting well again, landing Denmark's Jacob Larsen.

No official update on Domantas Sabonis, who took a nasty spill on his lower back against Eastern Oregon. Sabonis did practice Thursday and hopes to play. My guess, based in large part on Sabonis' toughness and intensity, is he plays and the Zags monitor him closely to see how long he's on the court.

His fall was a bit reminiscent of Sam Dower's spill against Kansas State in Wichita. Dower was in serious pain and needed help limping to the locker room. That happened on Dec. 21, 2013. He missed two games and roughly two weeks before returning. Sabonis' fall wasn't quite as severe as Dower's — Sam was going up for a dunk — and it appears his recovery and return won't take as long.


Larsen joins Gonzaga’s 2016 class

The Gonzaga Bulldogs, who take a global approach to recruiting, found the newest member of their 2016 recruiting class in Denmark.

Jacob Larsen, a 6-10, 235-pound center, has joined a talented recruiting class alongside Zach Collins, Killian Tillie and Zach Norvell.

More on GU's latest addition here.

Collins, Tillie make it official

Zach Collins and Killian Tillie followed up their verbal commitments by officially signing with Gonzaga on Wednesday.

More here.

Honors for Wiltjer, update on Sabonis

I wrote about two things for Tuesday's S-R: More honors coming Kyle Wiltjer's way and Domantas Sabonis' health.

Wiltjer was the leading vote-getter on the AP preseason All-America team.

Sabonis is quite sore after taking a hard fall in Saturday's exhibition game. He didn't practice Tuesday but did some work on the side, shooting, etc. Sabonis is traveling to Japan for Friday's season opener against Pitt, but his status for the game won't be known until later this week.

More here.


Zags thump Eastern Oregon in exhibition

Heading home after GU's 90-58 exhibition-game rout over Eastern Oregon. Game story posted below.

Domantas Sabonis wasn't available for comment after the game. He went directly to the training room after coach Mark Few wrapped up his lockerroom address to the team. Sabonis is expected to see a doctor Sunday.

Gamer below.

Zags entertain E. Oregon for exhibition

The 2015-16 college basketball season is here, sort of. Gonzaga will entertain Eastern Oregon in an exhibition matchup today at 5.

It'll be the first chance, other than a recent scrimmage against Baylor in Salt Lake City, for the Zags to go big, as in playing 6-10 Kyle Wiltjer, 6-11 Domas Sabonis and 7-1 Przemek Karnowski together. The trio are listed as probable starters, along with Kyle Dranginis and Josh Perkins.

Here's a short preview of tonight's game.

Zags have big plans for big three

The Zags' frontcourt has been ranked as the best in the nation by NBC Sports' college basketball website and among the top 10 by several media outlets.

Gonzaga coaches have plans to use standouts Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski simultaneously at times, with Wiltjer the likely candidate for the '3', or small forward position. That would likely be the biggest frontcourt in the country and it's an intriguing option — one that could create mismatches, perhaps favorably and unfavorably, at each end of the floor.

That's the topic for my article that will run in Wednesday's S-R.

Norvell commits to Gonzaga

Gonzaga added another important piece to its 2016 recruiting class with shooting guard Zach Norvell's verbal commitment Monday.

The 6-6 shooting guard from Chicago made his announced via Twitter. He joins center Zach Collins and French forward Killian Tillie in the Zags' 2016 class. Gonzaga also has three transfers — Nigel Williams-Goss, Johnathan Williams and Jeremy Jones — sitting out this season that will become eligible next year.

My article on Norvell here. Video of Norvell's 53-point game in Las Vegas here.

—The AP preseason poll was released Monday and Gonzaga checked in at No. 9. The Zags were 11th in the USA Today preseason rankings.


Zags again picked first by WCC coaches

To the surprise of virtually nobody, Gonzaga was picked to finish first in the WCC coaches' poll released Monday.

BYU was second, followed by Pepperdine and Saint Mary's.

The Zags' frontcourt trio of Przemek Karnowski, Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer were named to the 10-player preseason All-WCC team. More here.

Gonzaga is also favored in the WCC women's coaches poll. The Zags are aiming for their 12th consecutive women's title. More here.


Perkins makes his point(s)

Back with a feature on Josh Perkins, who pretty much took over Saturday's scrimmage in the final 9:15 to lead the Blue team past the Red.

He scored 17 points in that stretch, driving the lane for easy baskets and hitting a couple of 3-pointers — a reminder that the redshirt freshman seems to fit in GU's mold of point guards that can score and distribute. Here's my article that will run in Thursday's S-R.


Zags get after it at Kraziness

The Zags held their annual Kraziness in the Kennel Saturday and it was all fun and games until they started keeping score.

The 20-minute Blue/Red scrimmage was highly competitive, including a couple of verbal exchanges between players on opposite teams. Nothing serious, just what happens when competitive people collide. Shortly after coach Mark Few asked Josh Perkins to be more aggressive in hunting his shot, the freshman guard scored the majority of his 17 points to guide the Blue team past the Red 39-35. Eric McClellan, Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer each scored 11 points for the Red.

Przemek Karnowski attended the event but didn't play. He has pneumonia, but the big man seemed relieved to finally have his illness diagnosed after feeling fairly lousy of late. He hopes to be back at practice next week, but Few wasn't quite as optimistic and suggested the center might be sidelined until the end of the month.

Here's a link to my article that will run in Sunday's S-R.


GU bigs stay busy over summer

Gonzaga has three of the best bigs in the country and, for that matter, their homelands as well. Polish native Przemek Karnowski and Lithuania's Domantas Sabonis played for their respective national teams over the summer — and into the early fall, in Sabonis' case. Meanwhile, Kyle Wiltjer, who holds dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship, played for Canada in the Pan Am Games.

Here's a look back at their busy summers.

Wiltjer named CBS Sports’ preseason POY

Kyle Wiltjer delivered big numbers and received numerous post-season honors last season. The 2015-16 season has yet to begin, but the 6-foot-10 senior forward is already drawing national attention.

On Tuesday, CBS Sports named Wiltjer its preseason Player of the Year. More here, here and here.

(Programming note: I visited with Wiltjer, Domas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski on Tuesday for an upcoming article on their summer/fall experiences with their respective national teams.)


Zags release non-conference schedule

Gonzaga released its non-conference schedule Thursday, which essentially amounted to filling out a few home matchups to go along with the previously announced marquee contests.

More below.

French forward Tillie commits to Gonzaga

The Gonzaga men’s basketball team continued to bolster its future frontcourt by landing a verbal commitment Saturday from forward Killian Tillie.

The 6-foot-8 native of France chose Gonzaga over Georgia Tech and Utah. Tillie’s older brother Kim played for the Utes.

More below.

Zags open WCC season at home Dec. 21

WCC men’s basketball gets an early start this season, with pre-Christmas conference matchups for the first time in league history.

Gonzaga, conference champions 14 of the last 15 years, opens up at home against Pepperdine, projected by many as a top three pick, on Dec. 21, followed by Loyola Marymount two days later. After a short holiday break, the Zags’ first road trip will be to the Bay Area to face Santa Clara on Dec. 31 and San Francisco on Jan. 2.

The Zags will play five of their first seven conference games at home, three with students on semester break. The WCC television schedule will be released at a later date.

GU’s matchups against Brigham Young, which shared second place with Saint Mary’s last year, fall on Jan. 14 at the McCarthey Athletic Center and the regular-season finale Feb. 27 in Provo. The Zags and Gaels tangle Jan. 21 in Moraga and Feb. 20 in Spokane, the latter serving as Gonzaga’s Senior Night.

Gonzaga's WCC schedule here and the entire WCC slate here.



Zags, Huskies square off in Bahamas opener

Gonzaga and Washington will renew their rivalry a year ahead of schedule.

The Zags and Huskies will meet in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Nov. 25 in Paradise Island, Bahamas, tournament organizers announced.

The schools previously agreed to a four-year, home-and-home series beginning in the 2016-17 season. Washington holds a 29-14 edge in the series, but Gonzaga won eight of nine from 1998-2006. The Zags thumped the Huskies 97-77 in the most recent meeting in 2006 behind Derek Raivio’s 25 points. Adam Morrison scored 43 points in the 2005 contest won by Washington, 99-95.

Texas faces Texas A&M on the other half of the GU-UW bracket. In other openers, Michigan meets UConn and Charlotte faces Syracuse.

Williams-Goss transferring to GU

Nigel Williams-Goss, considered one of the top transfers in college basketball, has decided to transfer to Gonzaga.

The former University of Washington guard picked Gonzaga over UNLV and Providence. He canceled a visit to Ohio State after committing to the Zags.

GU hosted Williams-Goss and Missouri transfer forward Johnathan Williams this weekend. Williams averaged 11.9 points and 7. 1 rebounds for the Tigers as a sophomore last season. Williams will visit SMU next weekend and Georgetown the following weekend.

Wiltjer returning for senior season

One of the nation's best frontcourts last season is coming back next season. First, Domantas Sabonis informed the coaching staff he was coming back for his sophomore season instead of entering the NBA Draft. Next, Przemek Karnowski announced he's returning for his senior season.

And Monday, Kyle Wiltjer told GU coaches and teammates he'll be back for his senior season.

More on Wiltjer's return and Angel Nunez committing to South Florida here.

Karnowski coming back for senior year

One big man coming back, one big man still undecided.

Przemek Karnowski announced Friday he is returning to Gonzaga for his senior season. The 7-foot-1 center from Torun, Poland, weighed his options before deciding to finish out his collegiate eligibility. Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis give Gonzaga two-thirds of the frontcourt that helped the Zags piled up 35 wins last season.

Karnowski has an intriguing future. His development has been impressive and there's still plenty of room for growth. The offense often ran through him last season and his low-post presence led to baskets, foul pressure and open looks for teammates. He's an accomplished passer and defender.

Karnowski probably could have played professionally overseas this fall and made a healthy paycheck. My guess is he would have gone undrafted but now he has another year to improve his draft stock. Keep in mind: a number of Karnowski's better performances have been against the better and bigger centers Gonzaga has faced — Arizona's Kaleb Tarczewski, Duke's Jahlil Okafor (despite first-half foul trouble), UCLA's Kevon Looney (more of a '4') and Saint Mary's Brad Waldow.

Funny how these mock drafts work sometimes. I can remember Karnowski on draft boards in his freshman year and now he's nowhere to be found, despite the fact that he's a way better all-around player.

The last remaining question is forward Kyle Wiltjer, who hasn't announced whether he'll play his senior season or declare for the draft.



Wiltjer, Karnowski facing decisions

You never know. Just like the games themselves, the sporting world rarely follows a script. I didn't plan on sending out texts, making phone calls and scouring NBA mock drafts on Monday but that's what happened when it became known that Kyle Wiltjer is considering skipping his senior season at Gonzaga.

A month ago, if you'd have asked me the odds on a Zag leaving/staying, I probably would have said Domantas Sabonis 50-50, Kyle Wiltjer (20-80), Przmek Karnowski (15-85). And today? Sabonis has told coaches he's coming back. Wiltjer is seriously considering leaving GU. Karnowski is gathering information and hasn't made a final decision.

You never know.

Here's my article on Wiltjer/Karnowski and Vince Grippi offered his opinion. Gonzaga is in the mix for three top transfers.


Zags in good shape for 2016

Gonzaga's season ended a week ago and there's already been some promising developments for 2016, the biggest of which is Domantas Sabonis planning to return for his sophomore season.

Sabonis was projected as a late first-round pick so there had to be some temptation to leave early. His father, Arvydas, the legendary center, apparently used his NBA contacts to get a feel for Domas' draft position. Sabonis has all the tools to become an excellent pro, including a mid-range jumper that he didn't display much this season.

Here's my early look at the 2016 Zags that ran in today's S-R.