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Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins tries to keep rolling forward

UPDATED: Sun., Jan. 21, 2018

Gonzaga point guard Josh Perkins, shown driving into the key against Saint Mary’s on Thursday, scored 17 points in a win over Santa Clara on Saturday. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga point guard Josh Perkins, shown driving into the key against Saint Mary’s on Thursday, scored 17 points in a win over Santa Clara on Saturday. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Spend any time around Josh Perkins and you’ve probably heard him say, “I’ll roll with my guys,” or words to that effect.

The junior point guard is learning how to roll with the ups and downs of college basketball.

Those two sentences seem to be related.

Gonzaga responded to Thursday’s disheartening home loss to Saint Mary’s with a 75-60 victory at Santa Clara on Saturday. Nobody bounced back better than Perkins, who followed up one of the toughest nights of his career with one of his most efficient: 17 points, 6-of-7 shooting, 3 of 4 on 3-pointers, four rebounds, four assists, two turnovers, 37 minutes.

“I just try to be normal,” Perkins said of putting the Gaels’ game behind him. “Shooters shoot and I had a bad shooting night. I still thought I gave it my all in other parts of the game but my shot wasn’t falling. As a result, we lost.

“I just want to be a good leader for these guys. If I can bounce back from a bad game we all can. These guys did a great job of telling me to let it go and telling me it wasn’t all my fault.”

Perkins is fully aware he’s a lightning rod for the 13th-ranked Zags. If Perkins commits a careless turnover or forces a shot in a close game or a 30-point blowout, it rarely goes unnoticed by social media commentators.

He also understands that as the team’s only experienced point guard, a lot is riding on his performance.

“I was proud of Josh,” coach Mark Few said. “He obviously didn’t play good the other night and I think part of how he played (vs. Santa Clara) was his response. He took care of the ball, stepped up and hit shots and played pretty good D.”

With Gonzaga’s legacy of standout point guards, playing the position is the roughly the equivalent of being a quarterback on a top-20 football team. It brings additional attention and scrutiny.

“I see everything people say,” Perkins said. “You have to have tough skin in this profession. You’re not going to be liked by everybody. I’ve known that my whole life but I think now I’m actually starting to feel it. I’m just glad I’m with this group of guys that keep my head in it.”

Perkins dealt with fallout from the Saint Mary’s loss and nonstop taunts from Santa Clara’s student section for the second straight season. They chanted “DUI, DUI, DUI” when he dribbled out front or stepped to the free-throw line, a reference to his October 2016 arrest for physical control of a vehicle while under the influence.

“I’m a fan favorite out here I guess,” Perkins smiled. “I made a bad decision, I have to live with it. But these guys, you chant at one of us, you come at the whole team.”

Perkins has had his share of roller-coaster games. He doesn’t duck the media and never shies away from taking responsibility.

He had a rough outing in GU’s 72-70 road loss to San Diego State and committed costly turnovers late in regulation against Texas at the PK80. He followed both with strong games.

“Love me or hate me, I’m always going to be me,” Perkins said a few days after the Texas game. “At the end of the day, I’m about my guys. As long as we win and my teammates are happy I’m in a good place.”

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