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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga-BYU key matchup: Alex Barcello sparks Cougars’ offense

Jan. 12, 2022 Updated Wed., Jan. 12, 2022 at 6:09 p.m.

This isn’t Alex Barcello’s first rodeo against Gonzaga. The super senior has played five contests versus the Zags while wearing BYU’s uniform the last two-plus seasons.

Barcello, who played his first two seasons at Arizona before transferring, also came off the bench for a 5-minute stint in the Wildcats’ 91-74 loss to the Zags at the Maui Invitational in 2018.

Barcello brings mixed results – he scored nine, 20 and 15 points on 4-of-15 3-point shooting in three losses last season – and a personal 1-5 record against Gonzaga into Thursday’s showdown at the McCarthey Athletic Center. He scored three points when No. 23 BYU upset No. 2 Gonzaga 91-78 in Provo, Utah, two years ago.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Barcello leads BYU in scoring (16.6 points) by a wide margin (6.5 points), but he’s had three single-digit scoring efforts in the past four games – all Cougar wins. Still, he’s a proven shot-maker with shooting percentages last season in the Corey Kispert range while earning AP All-American honorable mention.

Barcello’s percentages have dropped slightly this season but remain impressive. He’s shooting roughly 47% on field-goal attempts and 88.7% at the free-throw line. He’s made 47.7% of his career 3-point attempts and 87.1% of his free throws at BYU.

“Barcello is a terrific, experienced player,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.

Barcello has hit five 3s in two games and four 3s in three games this season. He made 5 of 7 from deep and posted a season-high 28 points in a road loss to Creighton. He missed just two shots in a 25-point performance in a rout over Oregon. He leads the Cougars in minutes (30.8) and steals (16), and chips in 3.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists.

Barcello has connected on 18 of 24 field-goal attempts and 20 of 22 free throws in the final 5 minutes/overtime of games this season, according to BYU’s game notes.

Senior Andrew Nembhard will probably draw the defensive assignment on Barcello, who also might see Rasir Bolton, Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis at times, as well as other Zags on switches.

GU will attempt to make Barcello work at both ends of the court. Nembhard, the Zags’ leader in assists (4.8 per game), had eight assists in Saturday’s win over Pepperdine. Bolton, a grad transfer from Iowa State, has been solid at both ends of the floor while contributing 11.0 points with a team-leading 28 3-pointers on 43.8% accuracy.

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