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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga’s Mark Few: ‘We need a break’

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 13, 2017

Gonzaga coach Mark Few watches his team shoot free throws in the second half against Creighton, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, in the McCarthey Athletic Center.  (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga coach Mark Few watches his team shoot free throws in the second half against Creighton, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The Gonzaga Bulldogs have traveled coast to coast. They’ve played in a prestigious holiday tournament. They’ve entertained a ranked opponent and visited a long-time rival.

They’re right where they want to be this week: home.

The Zags have spent time concentrating on final exams and enjoying a brief respite from games.

No. 12 Gonzaga (8-2) returns to the court Saturday when North Dakota visits the McCarthey Athletic Center. The Zags will squeeze in three practices around the players’ test schedules.

“We need a break, man,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said following Sunday’s 97-70 road win over Washington. “From the PK80 to Creighton to New York City to here (Seattle), we need a break.

“We need to get Corey (Kispert) healthy. He was probably 50-60 percent (against Washington), but just having him in the rotation helps us so much. We’ll get him back and rolling again because he was off to a great start.”

Kispert, slowed by a sprained ankle suffered against Incarnate Word on Nov. 29, was clearly limited while playing 13 minutes against Washington. The freshman wing didn’t play against No. 4 Villanova in New York with his parents in the crowd at Madison Square Garden.

“It’s no secret I wasn’t 100 percent but it felt great to get back and play against a team I grew up watching my whole life,” said Kispert, who made 1 of 4 3-point attempts against the Huskies. “It’ll be good to get some time off my feet and get back to 100 percent before league.”

Kispert estimated he’s at 80-85 percent.

“Little things here and there that don’t feel good,” he said, “but I’m in that mode where I have to start trusting my ankle again and putting all my weight on it.”

Point guard Josh Perkins is another Zag who could benefit from an interruption to the regular routine. His right shoulder popped out and quickly back into place during Sunday’s game. He sat out for about 45 seconds before returning.

Gonzaga’s younger players typically have more finals than upperclassmen. Sophomore Killian Tillie has three finals. Senior Johnathan Williams is finishing up his business administration degree. Senior Silas Melson has one final.

“It’s my senior year,” said Melson, laughing. “I guess you can call this a break. I like playing games, I don’t know what (GU teammates) will tell you. I want to play again.”

After finals, Gonzaga faces three games in six days, capped by a road date versus San Diego State on Dec. 21. The Aztecs (7-3), who lost to Cal on Saturday, have a 12-day gap prior to Gonzaga’s visit.

The Zags will have a few days off for Christmas break before reconvening to prepare for the WCC opener against visiting Pacific on Dec. 28.

This week and the holiday break are college basketball’s closest thing to college football’s bye week, but studying for finals consumes some of the players’ spare time.

“I only have two (finals),” said Perkins, who was WCC All-Academic last year with a 3.24 grade-point average in Sport Management. “But I have one in sports law and that’s going to be a big one.”

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