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Gonzaga rewind: Josh Perkins demonstrates his toughness again in win over Pilots

The Spokesman-Review

PORTLAND – Senior point guard Josh Perkins could end his Gonzaga career as the program’s all-time assists leader, but he doesn’t dish much on his health.

Perkins played his first three-plus seasons with a recurring shoulder issue that he barely acknowledged when questioned by the media. It was only after having surgery last April that Perkins admitted his shoulder had popped out of place “14 or 15” times during his college career.

In the second half of Saturday night’s 89-66 win over Portland, Perkins took a couple of awkward steps splitting two defenders on a drive into the lane. He fell to the court and needed some extra time before standing up. He appeared to be hobbling a bit but stayed in the game.

Perkins drilled a 3-pointer and assisted on Brandon Clarke’s dunk before motioning to the bench that he needed a break.

“Yeah, just cramps, you know, basketball stuff,” said Perkins, unconvincingly.

Reporter: “You’re not going to fess up, are you?”

“Bingo,” said Perkins, breaking into laughter. “Finished the game, still played, nothing too serious.”

Perkins finished with three 3-pointers, 11 points, seven assists, three steals and one turnover in 35 minutes. He has 608 career assists, trailing only Blake Stepp’s 640 and Matt Santangelo’s 668.

Senior forward Jeremy Jones had an ice or heat wrap over his shoulder on the bench in the first half. Jones, who averages 15 minutes, only played the last 1:44 of the half for his shortest stint this season.

Jones said he was fine after the game.

The Zags should get some additional healing time with just one game this week: They visit Santa Clara on Thursday.

Lang comes up roses in Portland

Gonzaga’s bench went crazy. The crowd reaction sounded more like it had witnessed a game-winning shot than the Zags’ final points in a blowout.

Freshman walk-on guard Matthew Lang’s basket and free throw with 11 seconds left was a true crowd-pleaser for those who stayed to the final buzzer at the Chiles Center.

GU’s annual trip to the Rose City typically serves as a homecoming for the Zags. Lang carried on the program’s longtime connection to Portland with roughly 30 family and friends in attendance. He entered with 1:17 remaining and capitalized by slipping inside for a putback while being fouled.

“It was a pretty close game for when I would normally go in, so I was pretty surprised.” said Lang, who averaged 15.4 points at Portland’s Jesuit High, helping the Crusaders reach the Class 6A state quarterfinals last year. “I had a lot of family here and I could hear them all in the stands.”

Zags with ties to the Portland/Vancouver region include Matt Santangelo, Richie Frahm, Dan Dickau, Zach Gourde, Derek Raivio, Mike Hart, Kyle Wiltjer, Nigel Williams-Goss and Silas Melson, and assistant coaches Tommy Lloyd and Brian Michaelson. Head coach Mark Few is from Creswell, about 120 miles south of Portland.

Former Gonzaga forward Zach Collins is in his second season with the Portland Trail Blazers. He arrived a few minutes after tip-off, sat a couple rows behind Gonzaga’s bench, was interviewed on the television broadcast and visited with several of his former teammates outside the locker room.

Former Zag Domantas Sabonis, who plays for the Indiana Pacers, was born in Portland when his father, Arvydas, played for the Trail Blazers.

Kispert delivers twice

Corey Kispert needed a bounce-back after a four-game mini-slump. The sophomore wing responded with a pair of good games.

Kispert averaged 11.5 points on 50 percent shooting with four 3-pointers in GU’s easy wins over Loyola Marymount and Portland. He had scored just 19 points on 6-of-21 shooting in the previous four games.

“Just trying to find the cuts, open lanes or get out in transition,” Kispert said following the LMU game. “As we get deeper into the season, guys are going to start scouting Rui (Hachimura), BC (Clarke), Perk and Snacks (Zach Norvell Jr.), so when my chance comes up, I have to be really aggressive.”