Gonzaga plays four of its final five non-conference games at home starting with Saturday night’s contest with North Dakota. And no one is happier about that fact than Bulldogs coach Mark Few after his team finished a stretch that saw it crisscross the country for games in Portland, Ore., New York City and Sunday in Seattle where it polished off Washington 97-70.
The 13th-ranked Zags played seven games over a 17-day stretch that began by winning two of three games in four days in the PK80 Invitational followed by home wins over Incarnate Word and No. 25 Creighton, a neutral-court loss to No. 4 Villanova (88-72) in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden and ending with the road win over the Huskies. Even though Gonzaga will have had a six-day break before taking the court for the game with the Fighting Hawks, players have been busy this week finishing final exams. “We need a break, man,” Few told the Spokane Spokesman-Review. “From the PK80 to Creighton to New York City to (Seattle), we need a break.” Things heat up again in a hurry for Gonzaga which will begin a streak of three games in six days on Saturday that concludes with another trip down the coast to play Mountain West Conference heavyweight San Diego State.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ROOT
ABOUT NORTH DAKOTA (4-6): The Hawks, the defending regular-season and tournament Big Sky champs who are headed to the Summit League in a year, bring a three-game losing streak with them to Spokane including a 99-63 loss at South Dakota State on Tuesday. Junior guard Geno Crandall, a preseason first team All-Big Sky pick, leads the team in scoring (16.5), assists (3.5) and steals (2.2) while also shooting 41.5 percent (17-of-41) from 3-point range. Guard Marlon Stewart (13.7 points), a transfer from Creighton, forward Conner Avants (12.2) and guard Cortez Seales (11.0) also are averaging double figures while 6-8 senior forward Dale Jones, a transfer from Iowa, leads the team in rebounding (7.1) and had a career-high 18 points in the loss to South Dakota State.
ABOUT GONZAGA (8-2): Few is hoping the time off with help heal some injuries to two key starters in guard Josh Perkins, who is second on the team in scoring (14.4) while connecting on 51.6 percent of his 3-point tries (33-of-64), and freshman forward Corey Kispert, who is averaging 9.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Kispert, wgho sprained his ankle in the Nov. 29 win over Incarnate Word, returned after sitting out two games and had three points and zero rebounds in 13 minutes against Washington while Perkins had 14 points, eight assists and four steals against the Huskies despite briefly going to the bench when his right shoulder popped out of socket before it was quickly put back in place. Versatile senior forward Johnathan Williams leads the team in scoring (15.5) and rebounding (6.7) while freshman guard Zach Norvell Jr. (12.3 points), 6-10 sophomore forward Killian Tillie (11.6) and senior guard Silas Melson (11.1) also are averaging in double figures.
1. Gonzaga is 38-1 against Big Sky competition under Few.
2. The Zags rank sixth nationally in scoring offense (91.2) and have won their five home games by an average of 26 points.
3. Gonzaga is shooting 38.3 percent from 3-point range and has made 10 or more treys in eight of its 10 games.
PREDICTION: Gonzaga 102, North Dakota 67