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GU-USF notes: Zags limit 3-pointers, shore up rebounding in win over Dons

San Francisco forward Chase Foster, left, reaches for a rebound next to Gonzaga guard Jordan Mathews (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in San Francisco, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

SAN FRANCISCO – The 36-point explosion by Nigel Williams-Goss commands attention on the stat sheet.

Deservedly so.

But another column, San Francisco’s 3-point shooting numbers, factored heavily into Gonzaga’s 95-80 WCC victory Thursday.

The Dons have been prolific from the perimeter, entering the game 20th nationally in 3-point percentage (40.3) and 11th in 3s made per game (10.2). They’ve hit double-digit 3s in eight games, including a school-record 18 in a loss at Eastern Washington.

USF had little success as GU’s guards chased shooters off the 3-point line. The Dons finished 7 of 29 (24.1 percent). They missed their first seven 3s and didn’t connect on one in the first 17-plus minutes. By then, GU had built a 41-27 lead.

“That’s what I thought won the game for us,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “That Princeton action is tough to defend. They’re cutting hard and what happens is you end up over-helping and a guy ends up hitting an open 3.

“By and large, we hit our assignments pretty well.”

That isn’t easy against a Princeton-style offense with some unique wrinkles.

“Coach said it’s a weird offense and hard to guard,” senior guard Jordan Mathews said. “When they run that back screen action at the elbow, that was hard to guard because you’re not looking at the ball. You’re looking at your man and he’s flipping around.”

Jordan Ratinho made 3 of 7 3-point attempts. The rest of the Dons were 4 of 22.

“Probably the moment ate us a little bit,” USF coach Kyle Smith said. “They played us the way several teams have been playing us lately, chasing us off the 3 (point line).”

Nailing the boards

Rewind several weeks ago and Gonzaga was getting beat up on the glass. Arizona, Washington, Akron and Tennessee outrebounded the Zags, primarily because those four squads collected a whopping 85 offensive boards.

The Zags have yielded just 24 offensive rebounds in their last four games.

Gonzaga worked over USF 39-23 on the boards. The Zags have been plus-51 rebounding in their last four games.

“I hope so, I think,” Few said, when asked if GU’s rebounding has improved. “I didn’t think we were great on the offensive glass. I’d like to get J3 (Johnathan Williams) going there, Z-bo (Zach Collins). Killian Tillie’s usually a good offensive rebounder.”

Familiar setting

Gonzaga’s Jordan Mathews, playing in a gym that was practically a second home when he was younger, hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points.

His father, Phil, coached at USF from 1996-2004. Phil, now the head coach at Riverside (Calif.) City College, was on hand Thursday and he’s also seen three other GU games.

“At shoot-around, I spent so much time here it was weird coming back and seeing everything,” Mathews said. “but I’m happy.

“He has to split time with my brother (Jonah, freshman guard at USC). My mom is with my brother now.”