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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Key matchup: Baylor’s LJ Cryer, Keyonte George, Adam Flagler form dynamic 3-point shooting backcourt

Dec. 1, 2022 Updated Thu., Dec. 1, 2022 at 9:07 p.m.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – LJ Cryer was recently asked about his 11 3-point attempts in Baylor’s 89-60 win against McNeese State on Nov. 23.

“I think that was Keyonte George that put up 11 last game,” Cryer said in a news conference earlier this week.

Whether for reporters or opposing teams, keeping track of Baylor’s 3-point shooters can be a difficult task – something Gonzaga surely learned while studying film of the sixth-ranked Bears this week ahead of Friday’s neutral-site matchup at the Sanford Pentagon .

No, it wasn’t Cryer who took 11 3-pointers against McNeese State, but the junior guard did attempt 12 in a Nov. 11 game against Norfolk State. George, a freshman who was considered the nation’s top-rated shooting guard in the 2022 recruiting class, has attempted 11 in two separate games. Adam Flagler, the third member of Baylor’s dynamic starting backcourt, has attempted at least six 3s in each the team’s first seven games.

Baylor’s offense is paced by the three potent outside shooters who’ve been getting many of their best 3-point looks in transition. Cryer is averaging 7.7 3-point attempts, George is at 7.6 and Flagler, who makes 54% of his 3-point looks, isn’t far behind at 6.9 attempts per game. To put it into perspective, Julian Strawther, Gonzaga’s leader in 3-point attempts, has 4.7 per game.

“I mean, we work on a lot of 3s by ourselves when we’re in the gym, late night,” Cryer said. “Last year I shot the 3-ball pretty well, so I have the confidence to take a lot of 3s.

“Keyonte has been a pretty good shooter his whole life, (Jalen Bridges) has been a good shooter, Adam (Flagler). So we just look to run and whenever we get good looks, we’ll take them.”

Gonzaga’s already had a run-in with a potent Big 12 3-point shooting backcourt from the same state. In a 93-74 loss to Texas on Nov. 16, the Bulldogs let Longhorns guards Tyrese Hunter and Marcus Carr get loose for nine 3-pointers. Those two combined for 42 points in the game and shot 52% from beyond the arc.

The Zags haven’t ironed out their issues defending on the perimeter, allowing Purdue’s starting backcourt of Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith to make 6 of 14 in an 84-66 loss to the Boilermakers at the Phil Knight Legacy in Portland.

If Gonzaga matches up its point guard against Baylor’s, Nolan Hickman will take the defensive assignment on Flagler, with Rasir Bolton likely to cover Cryer and wing Julian Strawther taking on George. Hunter Sallis’ length and athleticism could come in handy off the bench for Gonzaga.

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