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National powers Gonzaga, Michigan State to scrimmage for second straight season

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 19, 2019, 4:41 p.m.

Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert, shown in an NCAA Tournament game against Texas Tech, led all scorers with 24 points in last year’s scrimmage against Michigan State. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert, shown in an NCAA Tournament game against Texas Tech, led all scorers with 24 points in last year’s scrimmage against Michigan State. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

It’s another marquee matchup for Gonzaga basketball, but this one doesn’t count in the win-loss column.

Gonzaga and Michigan State, which will likely be No. 1 in the AP preseason rankings, will square off in a closed scrimmage for the second straight season. The scrimmage is scheduled for Oct. 19 in Denver, according to The Athletic’s Brendan Quinn.

The national powers scrimmaged a year ago in Minneapolis with the Zags edging the Spartans 58-46 and 52-46 in separate halves.

The Spartans went one step deeper than GU in last year’s NCAA Tournament, reaching the Final Four for the 10th time before falling to Texas Tech 61-51. The Red Raiders eliminated Gonzaga 75-69 in the Elite Eight.

Michigan State has an impressive roster, led by senior guard Cassius Winston, an All-American last year and player of the year candidate this season. Winston led the team in scoring (18.8), assists (7.5) and steals (40) last season. His 291 assists set a Big Ten single-season record. He made 84 3-pointers and shot just under 40 percent from distance.

Other key players include Xavier Tillman, Joshua Langford, Aaron Henry and freshman guard/wing Mark “Rocket” Watts Jr.

The 6-foot-8, 245-pound Tillman averaged 10 points and 7.3 rebounds last season, including 13.3 points and 8.1 boards in MSU’s final 13 games. Langford, a 6-5 wing, averaged 15 points and hit 40.3% of his 3-point attempts but was limited to 13 games by an ankle injury. Henry, a 6-6 wing, was a part-time starter while averaging 6.1 points and nearly four rebounds.

Gonzaga returns four players – forwards Killian Tillie and Filip Petrusev, wing Corey Kispert and guard Joel Ayayi – but added graduate transfer guards Ryan Woolridge (North Texas) and Admon Gilder (Texas A&M). Gonzaga’s recruiting class of six freshmen was ranked 13th nationally by 247sports.com.

Kispert scored a team-high 24 points in last year’s scrimmage. Tillie didn’t play because of a stress fracture in his ankle that kept him sidelined for the first two months of the season.

The Zags, No. 9 in ESPN’s latest rankings, hold Kraziness in the Kennel on Oct. 5. They entertain Lewis-Clark State College on Nov. 1 in an exhibition game before the regular-season opener vs. Alabama State on Nov. 5.

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