Gonzaga’s 74-71 loss to Saint Mary’s on Thursday night left the majority of Zags fans disappointed and confused.
But none were as dumbfounded and frustrated as Gonzaga’s guards, particularly Josh Perkins, who had a few questions waiting for him on social media immediately after the game.
All comments from some online critics pointed to one question – where was Gonzaga’s leader?
Perkins had just one basket all night – a 3-pointer in the second half to give the Zags a 57-52 lead – and missed eight attempts from the field. He pulled together 6 points, half of which were earned at the line when he was fouled on a 3-point attempt.
He had one more chance for redemption – a 3 at the end of the game that would have given Gonzaga another life in overtime – but he wouldn’t escape Saint Mary’s big man Jock Landale, who Perkins claimed to have tipped the ball as it left his hands. The ball didn’t hit any part of the basket, and fans were left scratching their heads and wondering what in the world happened to Perkins.
Later in the locker room, Perkins was asked if he thought the ball was tipped.
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” he told reporters. “I don’t think I air-balled out of nowhere.”
It was a tough argument to make, considering his alarming inaccuracy from 3-point range all night. Perkins went 1-for-6, unsettling numbers for a guard who leads the conference in 3s per game (3.0) and is now seventh on the WCC list in 3-point percentage (43.7).
Fans were quick to put down their point guard on social media, suggesting that the junior chokes during some of Gonzaga’s biggest contests.
Their arguments are rooted in games such as Perkins’ 0-for-2 performance against Creighton, and his 1 of 7 attempts from the field in a game-high 37 minutes against San Diego State. Just like Thursday’s showing, Perkins finished 1-for-6 from 3-point range against the Aztecs.
In all the backlash, no critic was harsher on Perkins than Perkins was on himself.
“I put this loss on me,” he said. “But it won’t happen again.”
In Perkins’ defense, his numbers have rocked the stat sheet in a couple of big games this season.
He went 6-of-9 from 3-point range and had 20 points in a win over Ohio State, the team that later thumped then-No. 1 Michigan State 80-64. He contributed 17 points and seven assists in Gonzaga’s narrow 111-105, double-overtime loss to Florida, which climbed to as high as No. 5 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Perkins, second to Johnathan Williams with 13.3 points per game, is hitting 44.7 percent from the field. His 5.6 assists per game after Thursday, when Perkins dished out seven, are third in the conference.
The Zags know not every night is going to be one for the record books.
“It just wasn’t my night,” Perkins said on Thursday.
He sat back in his locker after the game and pulled together a couple of rough explanations for the TV cameras and recorders asking him “What happened?” His answer came down to a variation on a phrase uttered by a vast number of athletes following a disappointing loss: “That’s just basketball.”
“This might be one of our low spots,” Perkins said. “We can’t look at it as that. We’ve got to capitalize on the things that we did wrong and take this feeling and try to get it out of our system.”
And of course, move on.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s not something I’m going to pout about by any means,” said senior guard Silas Melson, who put up eight points for the Zags. “It’s only January. We still have got a whole conference schedule to play.”
The Zags have a chance to get back some confidence at Santa Clara on Saturday and against Portland on Thursday at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Gonzaga toppled both opponents by more than 45 points at the start of conference play.
The Zags, who now look up to the Gaels atop the conference standings, will get another go at Saint Mary’s when they travel to Moraga, California, on Feb. 10.
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