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Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert looking spry again as ankle heals

UPDATED: Sat., Dec. 30, 2017, 11:11 p.m.

Gonzaga guard Corey Kispert battles Santa Clara guard Matt Turner for a loose ball, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Corey Kispert battles Santa Clara guard Matt Turner for a loose ball, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

It’s just a mental thing.

That’s what Gonzaga guard Corey Kispert keeps telling himself as he continues to recover from his ankle injury he suffered a month ago against Incarnate Word.

After Thursday’s win over Pacific, the freshman guard from Edmonds, Washington, told The Spokesman-Review that his recovery is “100 percent more mental than physical.”

The sprained ankle sidelined Kispert for two games and limited his time on the court for several games following his return against the Washington Huskies on Dec. 10.

Kispert wasn’t getting much action on the court until Thursday’s showing when he hit five field goals – two from 3-point range.

But in Saturday’s 101-52 victory over the Santa Clara Broncos, Kispert appeared to be back to how he performed in the first seven games that he started for the Zags. For a second consecutive night he scored in double figures – one of seven Zags who scored at least 10 against the Broncos – and was a lot more physical than he had been since Incarnate Word.

“It’s taken me a little bit to get back to my normal form, and tonight was a really good night, especially in the first half,” said Kispert, who finished with 10 points, six rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block.

Kispert came in for freshman guard Zach Norvell, Jr., about 4 minutes into the game. He played it safe for a couple of minutes and hung around the outside of the perimeter, stepping back to score his first 3 of the game to give the Zags a 22-4 lead.

Kispert found a bit more confidence later in the half. He swiped a ball from a pair of defenders under the hoop and made a long pass to sophomore forward Rui Hachimura on the opposite end of the court, who barely missed the layup.

A minute later, Kispert pulled inside again to defend and blocked a dunk attempt by Broncos forward Josip Vrankic.

Kispert wasn’t completely rid of his mental blockage until he jumped over a defender for a dunk at the buzzer that ended the first half. The dunk was late, but it was exactly what Kispert said needed to happen to find his rhythm.

“That’s kind of the landmark moment you want to have,” Kispert said. “Like, OK, my ankle’s good now, I can get back to doing what I used to do.”

Kispert isn’t sure if he’ll get a chance to jump back into his starting role, which has since been taken over by Norvell. Since his injury, Kispert has been switching off with Norvell, coming off the bench when Norvell needs a rest.

“He and I are a great one-two punch,” Kispert said. “Whether that’s me starting and him coming off the bench, or him starting and me coming off the bench, I don’t care. As long as we’re winning and playing good together, that’s all that matters.”

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