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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga-UCLA: Key matchups everywhere on the floor for Tuesday’s showdown

A monster matchup calls for an expanded version of the key matchup.

There should be intriguing matchups all over the T-Mobile Arena court when top-ranked Gonzaga and No. 2 UCLA collide Tuesday in Las Vegas. A few should look familiar with UCLA returning Johnny Juzang, Jaime Jaquez Jr., Tyger Campbell and Jules Bernard, while the Zags feature junior Drew Timme and senior Andrew Nembhard.

Those six players played major roles in Gonzaga’s memorable 93-90 win over the Bruins at the Final Four last April.

The coaching staffs have some flexibility in deciding how to set defensive assignments.

For example, will Gonzaga put the 6-foot-5 Nembhard or speedster Rasir Bolton on 5-11 point guard Tyger Campbell? The latter would free up Nembhard to guard one of the Bruins’ versatile wings – 6-7 Johnny Juzang or 6-7 Jules Bernard.

Juzang dropped 29 points on Gonzaga in April. Bernard has assumed a bigger role this season. He was 10 of 20 on 3-pointers before Monday’s win over Bellarmine.

The frontcourt battle is compelling, too. Gonzaga scoring machine Drew Timme clashes with UCLA’s Myles Johnson. The 6-10, 255-pound Johnson, who replaces the injured Cody Riley in the starting unit, is known more for defense, shot blocking and rebounding than scoring.

“It’s an adjustment for us, even though Myles can block shots, we’ve only played 3 minutes of basketball without Cody,” Bruins coach Mick Cronin said. “He’s been an anchor for us for a long time. He allows us to do different things with our defensive rotations that we can’t do with Myles, so we’ve had to change a little bit who we are with Myles in there.”

UCLA boasts yet another versatile 6-7 guard/forward in Jaquez, a 225-pound junior that fills up the stat sheet. He could potentially line up against Timme, wing Julian Strawther or 7-foot forward Chet Holmgren.

Holmgren, too, could see time, by design or on switches, against Juzang, Jaquez or Bernard.

“I don’t know what his wingspan is, but I’ve seen Chet in person,” Cronin said. “He looks like he can touch the rim without jumping. I think that’s where he’ll help because Drew is such an elite offensive player. Chet can protect the rim for them on defense.”

Juzang (21.5 points per game prior to Monday), Bernard and Jaquez (both 18.0) and Campbell (13.0) can impact games in a variety of ways.

“Juzang is still playing with tons and tons of confidence,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Jaquez looks terrific, Jules has played really well. Tyger, when we played him last year he was shooting 20-something from 3, he’s shooting 60% now.”

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