Arrow-right Camera
Go to e-Edition Sign up for newsletters Customer service
Subscribe now
Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga-San Francisco key matchup: Tough-minded Khalil Shabazz leads Dons into WCC semifinal

March 6, 2022 Updated Sun., March 6, 2022 at 6:36 p.m.

LAS VEGAS – With Khalil Shabazz and Jamaree Bouyea occupying the chairs to his right, Todd Golden made an audacious claim about San Francisco’s veteran guards Saturday night in a news conference following the Dons’ 75-63 victory over BYU at the West Coast Conference Tournament.

“These two guys sitting next to me I think are the two best guards in the league,” Golden said, “and have continued night in, night out to give us a great chance to win no matter who we’re playing.”

Shabazz and Bouyea may need to be even better than that if the fourth-seeded Dons have any hopes of upsetting the top-seeded Bulldogs in Monday’s 6 p.m. semifinal at the Orleans Arena.

Golden classified Yauhen Massalski as “day to day” after the All-WCC First Team forward appeared to hurt his knee in Saturday’s quarterfinal game and the USF coach suggested he won’t push the junior to play given that the Dons all but secured an NCAA Tournament bid with their result against BYU.

So, USF may need even more production than usual from the pair of all-conference guards who accounted for 40 points Saturday night and combine to average more than 30 ppg for the 24-8 Dons.

Bouyea earned “key matchup” honors before Gonzaga’s two regular season meetings with USF but the recent play – and toughness – of Shabazz warrants attention this time around.

The Seattle native and Rainier Beach product is still only 11 days removed from taking an unintentional elbow to the face from Andrew Nembhard in the second half of Gonzaga’s 89-73 win at War Memorial Gym. Shabazz suffered a broken nose from the collision but managed to returned to the court two days later, wearing a plastic mask over his face as he scored 15 points to go with five assists and zero turnovers in a 78-62 win at San Diego.

Shabazz then poured in a game-high 22 points against BYU while making 5-of-9 shots from the 3-point line. It was the fifth time this season he’s made five 3-pointers.

The senior guard has also found success scoring against Gonzaga, but the Bulldogs have usually made him work for his production. In seven games against GU over the last three seasons, Shabazz is averaging 13.5 points on 30% shooting, having made 31-of-102 from the field.

The lightning-quick Shabazz is also one of the conference’s top perimeter defenders – Bouyea is a candidate for that honor, too – and should open Monday’s game guarding Nembhard, who may not match the pace of the USF guard but does have 5 inches on Shabazz. Nembhard scored 17 points in the Bulldogs’ last meeting with the Dons.

When the Zags are on defense, it’ll likely be Nembhard drawing the assignment on Shabazz, as well. Fellow Seattle native Nolan Hickman should also have opportunities to check Shabazz when GU’s freshman guard is on the floor.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Follow along with the Zags

Subscribe to our Gonzaga Basketball newsletter to stay up with the latest news.