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Zags enter NIT final vs. athletic, undefeated St. John’s short-handed

GU will have to make do without reserve guard Josh Perkins who had his broken jaw wired shut in the early morning hours Thursday

St. John's 6-foot-6 guard Sir'Dominic Pointer scores over 6-11 Minnesota center Elliott Eliason. (AP)
St. John's 6-foot-6 guard Sir'Dominic Pointer scores over 6-11 Minnesota center Elliott Eliason. (AP)
NEW YORK – Gonzaga and St. John’s were all over the highlights on sports shows Wednesday night for entirely different reasons. Georgia guard Kenny Gaines’ kick to the jaw of Gonzaga freshman Josh Perkins was aired repeatedly during the recap of the Zags’ 88-76 victory in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals. Perkins suffered a broken jaw, which was wired shut in the early morning hours. Perkins’ timetable to return isn’t known. Coach Mark Few guessed six weeks, but said he’ll know more after Perkins sees a specialist in Spokane. Meanwhile, St. John’s rallied past Minnesota with 6-foot-6 Sir’Dominic Pointer’s dunk over 6-11 Elliott Eliason ranking No. 1 on ESPN’s Top 10 plays. The victory bumped the Red Storm to 4-0, its best start since 2010, and into the championship game against No. 10 Gonzaga (5-0) tonight at Madison Square Garden. Perkins’ injury leaves Gonzaga short-handed at guard and likely ends Silas Melson’s scheduled redshirt season. “We’ll take a look at Silas now,” said Few, noting it’s unlikely Gonzaga can go with just four guards until Eric McClellan becomes eligible in January, a span of 10 games. Few said earlier this month the decision to redshirt – arrived at by Melson and the coach – was one of the toughest of his career because the 6-4 freshman was ready to contribute but he wasn’t going to see much time in a crowded backcourt. Kevin Pangos, an ironman in his first three years, figures to see heavy minutes. He’s the lone true point guard. Gary Bell Jr. and Kyle Dranginis can fill in on occasion at the point, but the Zags lose Pangos’ ability to slide over to the ‘2’ when Perkins entered games. Perkins didn’t return to the team hotel until about 6:30 a.m. but he’s in good spirits. He tweeted: “At least we got the win!” “The big thing is not only the broken jaw but the weight loss that comes with because you can’t eat the same,” Few said. “We’ll see; maybe he’s a quick healer.” St. John’s presents many of the same challenges Gonzaga faced against Georgia. St. John’s typically plays four guards and relies on dribble penetration to create offense. D’Angelo Harrison, a 6-4 guard, had 19 points, nine rebounds and six steals against Minnesota. Center Chris Obekpa is a rebounding and shot-blocking presence in the lane. “They’re going to bounce it and bounce it,” Few said. “They’re going to try to speed us up, fluster us and try to block everything at the rim.”
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