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Gonzaga Basketball

Key matchup: Xavier senior guard Souley Boum, Gonzaga have seen each other before

PORTLAND – Souley Boum first occupied the key matchup space against Gonzaga on Jan. 13, 2018, when he was 6-foot-3, 145 pounds and wearing San Francisco’s green and gold.

The Oakland, California, native makes a repeat appearance nearly five years later, 30 pounds heavier, a proven scorer and one of college basketball’s most experienced guards.

The well-traveled Boum left USF for UTEP after his freshman season. He sat out one season under transfer rules before averaging nearly 17 points per game as a three-year starter.

His next move was to Xavier – the Zags’ opponent in the third-place game at the Phil Knight Legacy – and Boum is putting up the best stats of his 128-game collegiate career.

Boum has led or shared scoring honors in four of six games, including 22 points in a first-round win over Florida and coach Todd Golden, who was an assistant at San Francisco when Boum was a freshman. Boum scored a much-needed 23 points against Duke when forwards Jack Nunge and Zach Freemantle combined for just nine points (23 below their average).

Junior guard Colby Jones, Xaxier’s third-leading scorer at 14.4 points, told the Cincinnati Enquirer Boum is “the head of the snake for our team.”

Boum could have a bigger role against the Zags. Senior guard Adam Kunkel exited Friday’s game after being hit in the head. He didn’t return and his status for Sunday wasn’t known.

Boum averages 16.8 points and career highs in percentage inside the arc (58.1), 3-point percentage (50), free-throw percentage (89.7) and assists (3.8). He didn’t have as much success against the Zags, averaging 12 points and shooting 35.4% in three losses in 2018.

Boum is effective from behind the 3-point line, with dribble penetration and in transition. He leads the Musketeers in free-throw attempts (39).

Gonzaga is coming off a dismal defensive performance in Friday’s loss. Purdue torched GU inside and outside, including freshman guards Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer combining for five 3-pointers, 28 points and 12 assists.

The Zags’ backcourt faces another high-level test against Boum and the frontcourt tandem of Nunge and Freemantle. Rasir Bolton will probably be assigned to defend Boum, who might see Nolan Hickman at times, as well as Hunter Sallis and Malachi Smith off Gonzaga’s bench.