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Key matchup: BYU forward Gideon George impacts games at both ends of court

BYU power forward Fousseyni Traore occupied the key matchup space prior to Gonzaga’s 75-74 victory over the Cougars a month ago in Provo, Utah.

The 6-foot-6, 240-pound sophomore still leads the team in scoring (12.8) and rebounding (8.1), but, given BYU’s balanced offense, we’ll take the opportunity to highlight another player who should be fairly high on Gonzaga’s scouting report.

Senior forward Gideon George has made an impact at both ends of the floor. He’s elevated his scoring average to 11.3 points from 8.8 last season. The 6-6, 210-pound George has bumped his rebounding average to 6.1 compared to 5.0 a year ago. He’s particularly effective on the offensive glass at 2.0 per game.

George has been foul prone with three disqualifications, but he’s used his athleticism to snag a team-high 37 steals and block 18 shots, tied for second on the team.

George has been inconsistent at times, but he was solid against the Zags last month with four 3-pointers, 17 points, six boards, one steal and one block in 26 minutes. He had three 3s and a season-high 21 points in a victory over Dayton. He made four 3s, scored 20 points and grabbed nine boards against Portland.

He’s coming off two steady performances, including his second double-double of the season (12 points and 10 rebounds vs. Pacific) and 13 points, seven boards and three assists in Thursday’s loss to Pepperdine.

George is shooting nearly 53% inside the arc but just 31.8% on 3s, despite nine games with multiple 3-pointers. He averaged 11 points against GU in a pair of losses last season.

He’s part of a starting lineup that recently has included 6-11 Noah Waterman – he played just 11 minutes against the Waves – and four players between 6-4 and 6-6. The Cougars have a number of guards/versatile forwards in their rotation, including 6-7 Jaxson Robinson, who has come off the bench recently but leads the team in minutes (28.4) and contributes 8.8 points per game. Coastal Carolina transfer Rudi Williams, a 6-2 guard, is second in scoring at 12.2 points, has scored in double figures in five of the past six games, including 24 vs. Santa Clara and 28 vs. San Francisco.

At the outset, Gonzaga seniors Drew Timme and Anton Watson will likely lineup against Waterman and Traore with wing Julian Strawther probably drawing the starting assignment on George.