MORAGA, Calif. – Przemek Karnowski had perhaps the best half of his five-year career at Gonzaga.
And a rare temper tantrum as an added bonus.
The senior center scored 15 first-half points to help No. 1 Gonzaga seize control en route to a convincing 74-64 victory over No. 20 Saint Mary’s on Saturday at McKeon Pavilion.
But one wrong step under the basket late in the half and Karnowski tweaked his ankle. Seconds later, he was on the bench.
Neither of those developments sat well with the gentle giant. He barked at the coaching staff and flung his arm in frustration while taking a seat. His teammates and coaches gave him some space before approaching the 7-foot-1, 300-pound Karnowski.
“I was just frustrated about everything at the same time,” a smiling Karnowski said afterward. “It took 30 seconds to a minute to calm down.”
It turned out the ankle wasn’t much of a concern – “I tweaked it but I didn’t sprain it,” he said – and he went right back to tormenting the Gaels. Only in the second half, it was more on the defensive end.
So Johnathan Williams, Karnowski’s frontcourt side-kick, took over on the offensive end. With the Gaels starting cutting into GU’s lead, the Zags ran a few isolation plays for Williams, who responded with clutch baskets.
“I guess they’re getting more comfortable with me,” Williams said of the coaches. “They see me putting the work in every single day. I respect that a lot.”
Williams worked over several different Gaels’ defenders.
“He’s kind of a nightmare for a lot of guys in this league because he’s an athletic, big, strong forward,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “A lot of teams don’t have that.”
Williams missed his first shot but told himself to stay aggressive. Later in the half, he knocked down a 3-pointer, his first in 10 games.
“I was able to shoot it with confidence and an aggressive mind set,” he said. “When you think about it, that’s when shots don’t go in.”
Karnowski took a cerebral approach to his matchup with Saint Mary’s standout center Jock Landale.
“I knew Landale was going to try to be factor on the offensive end so I tried to attack him on the defensive end and go to my advantages,” Karnowski said. “I thought it worked out in the first half.”
Landale was stellar when he wasn’t sitting on the bench, scoring 24 points in 25 minutes. But the Zags had a 1-2 combination in Karnowski and Williams, and reserve Zach Collins chipped in six points and swatted one of Landale’s attempts.
The trio missed just four shots while scoring 27 of the Zags’ 40 first-half points.
Karnowski and Williams finished with 36 points and 18 boards. They were highly efficient on 16-of-22 shooting.
“We weren’t prepared well enough to defend their posts,” Gaels coach Randy Bennett said. “Whether that’s we were not playing hard or whether we’re not executing what we’re supposed to do, whatever.
“They had a field day on us in the post.”
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