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Nigel Williams-Goss expected back for Gonzaga-LMU game

Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Goss eyes the basket against San Diego on Jan. 26. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Goss eyes the basket against San Diego on Jan. 26. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Top-ranked Gonzaga is optimistic it will have its top player, Nigel Williams-Goss, for Thursday’s road game against Loyola Marymount.

Williams-Goss practiced Tuesday and Wednesday and is on track to return after missing last Saturday’s rout over Santa Clara with a sore ankle.

The junior guard rolled his ankle in the first half against BYU last Thursday. Driving from the right wing toward the free-throw line, Williams-Goss was cut off by defenders Elijah Bryant and TJ Haws. Williams-Goss lost his balance and tweaked his left ankle, the same ankle he had surgically repaired last year when he redshirted after transferring from Washington.

Williams-Goss scored 24 second-half points in the win over BYU but sat out against the Broncos two days later.

Williams-Goss, who on Wednesday made the Wooden Award late season top 20 list, was one of six Zags in double figures against Loyola Marymount in last month’s 93-55 victory at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Center Przemek Karnowski scored a team-high 17 points and frontcourt mates Zach Collins and Johnathan Williams combined for 27.

It was a rare blowout involving LMU, which has had 11 of its 23 games decided in the final 10 seconds. The Lions (11-12, 4-8 WCC) are 4-7 in those tight contests.

Meanwhile, Gonzaga (24-0, 12-0) has won its last 16 games by double digits and 21 of 24 overall.

The Zags are in their second week carrying the No. 1 ranking. They have demonstrated they can concentrate on the task at hand, but that focus will be tested with Saturday’s showdown looming versus No. 20 Saint Mary’s (21-2, 11-1) in Moraga.

“Business as usual,” GU senior wing Jordan Mathews said after the Santa Clara win. “Everyone is going to scrutinize us from the outside, but we just have to do what we do on the inside. That’s all that matters.

“We come to practice, work every day and prepare for different teams, we’ll be fine.”

Point guard Brandon Brown and wing Buay Tuach fuel the Lions’ offense. Brown had just five points against Gonzaga in the first meeting, but he averaged 16 points in LMU’s next six games before being held to seven in last Saturday’s loss to San Francisco.

Tuach led LMU with 19 points in the loss to Gonzaga. He scored a career-high 21 points against BYU two weeks ago.

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