Here’s a stat you don’t see every day: Midway through the second half, Gonzaga had a 42-4 advantage in points in the paint.
The third-ranked Zags bullied another smaller WCC frontcourt, pushing around San Diego in a 79-43 blowout Thursday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Przemek Karnowski, 7-foot-1 and 300 pounds, overpowered San Diego’s Cameron Neubauer, 6-7 and 220. Karnowski overpowering most WCC centers isn’t a new or surprising development.
Of late, Karnowski has had an equally effective sidekick. Junior forward Johnathan Williams has found another gear since the beginning of the conference season in late December.
“I think J3 is the one that’s really starting to come on,” coach Mark Few said.
The last three weeks have been the best of the season for Williams, who has reached double figures in five of the last six games. He’s settled into his role in the offense and his connection with Karnowski is growing by the game.
Just what Gonzaga opponents need: Another emerging weapon to deal with in their scouting reports.
“I’m just starting to find a rhythm now, everything is starting to come together,” said Williams, who had 13 points and 12 rebounds for his first double-double as a Zag. He had nine in his first two seasons at Missouri.
“We have an awesome connection,” Williams said of Karnowski. “We just look for each other, whether it’s high-low or me passing it to him from the high post or him passing to me out of double teams.”
The latter was the case against the Toreros, particularly early. Gonzaga ran its first four possessions through Karnowski, who was immediately double-teamed. On the first play, he fed Williams for a dunk.
Karnowski followed by dishing to Nigel Williams-Goss, who converted an easy floater in the lane. The big man dropped a jump hook on the ensuing play and Gonzaga was up 6-0.
Karnowski and Williams connected on the opening play of the second half, leading to a Williams’ layup and three-point play.
“Przemek’s one of the best passers I’ve ever played with, it’s easy to connect with him,” freshman center Zach Collins said.
Karnowski’s presence puts defenses in a quandary: Guard him one-on-one in the paint or double down to get the ball out of his hands. Karnowski is comfortable against both options.
He’s shooting 71 percent in WCC games. He’s also averaging 2.8 assists.
- Also today: Three keys to Gonzaga’s 21st victory of the season
Williams is right behind, connecting on 63.3 percent of his shots. Even though he’s missed his last five 3-pointers, he still shares the team lead in 3-point accuracy at 47.6 percent.
Scoring isn’t the only way Williams is impacting games. His rebounding numbers are soaring and he’s made a jump defensively. The Zags switched on screens against San Diego and Karnowski and Williams were able to stay with smaller players on the perimeter.
Assistant coach Brian Michaelson said Williams’ defensive emergence has allowed GU “to grow some of our defensive coverages.”
“He’s getting more and more comfortable on how to play off Przemek. That’s part of the beauty of playing with Przemek, he’s probably the best passing big that there is in the country,” Michaelson said. “J3 been scoring at a high rate, but the biggest thing (against San Diego) is the way he went and rebounded. Przemek clears so much space, J3 can go get the ball.
“That’s what he’s elite at, getting up there and playing above the rim.”
- Also today: Take a look at Gonzaga’s dominating 79-43 win over San Diego by the numbers
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