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NCAA Basketball

No. 17 Gonzaga facing new defensive challenges

Adapting to life on the perimeter without Nigel Williams-Goss and Jordan Mathews will be a significant test this season for No. 17 Gonzaga.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few expects to see more zone defenses in attempt to throw his team's production from outside the lane off kilter. He knows Utah State will use a zone defense Saturday night at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash., like what Howard used Tuesday in Gonzaga's 106-69 victory.

The game pitting Gonzaga (2-0) against Utah State (2-1) is a non-bracketed contest of the PK80 Invitational in Portland that will be played Nov. 23-26 in the Moda Center and Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Two eight-team events will run simultaneously in the two arenas with the crowning of two bracket champions.

Gonzaga is in the "Motion Bracket" and it plays against Ohio State in the quarterfinals. The other teams in the Motion Bracket include Butler, Duke, Florida, Portland State, Stanford and Texas.

In Tuesday's win over Howard the Bison were aggressive defending the perimeter with traps and full-court pressure in addition to applying a 2-3 zone. Gonzaga cruised to a 37-point win, but it afforded the Bulldogs the opportunity to execute against the zone.

"You don't see that often," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of a zone defense played almost exclusively. "We could very well see that in the PK80. Duke was playing exclusively zone (vs. Michigan State on Tuesday). Utah State will play zone."

Gonzaga junior guard Josh Perkins and freshman guard Corey Kispert made a pair of 3-pointers early against Howard to loosen the zone and set the tone for the Bulldogs.

With 7:24 left in the first half, Gonzaga already had 10 assists and 39 points. The zone defense was solved and Gonzaga's Silas Melson and Perkins successfully maneuvered past Howard's full-court pressure defense.

"They put us through a lot of situations we might see down the road," Gonzaga senior forward Johnathan Williams said. "I feel like we handled it pretty well."

Perkins is shooting 52.9 percent (9 of 17) from 3-point range for Gonzaga, which as a team is playing well despite the absence of Williams-Goss and Mathews, who are now playing professionally. The Bulldogs are shooting 41.7 percent from beyond the arc.

Utah State has executed well, especially on offense in its two wins against Montana State (81-73 final score) and Mississippi Valley State (83-47).

The Aggies have some sharpshooters of their own with sophomore guard Koby McEwen and junior guard DeAngelo Isby. They combined for four 3-pointers and 18 points in less than four minutes of the second half when the Aggies outscored Mississippi Valley State in the first five minutes of the period on Wednesday.

"We turned it around; the second half was very, very impressive, and I told them that during a timeout," Utah State coach Tim Duryea said. "I thought everybody out there was trying to make a play for their teammate, and the ball was popping. The ball was moving. And they were getting open shots for each other.

"Koby made that three to open the half and kind of loosened us up, and the rim got a little bigger and balls started going in."

McEwen suffered a potentially serious injury to his right foot in the game. The reigning Mountain West Freshman of the Year came up limping later in the second half when he tried to weave past defenders in one sequence. After he was examined in the locker room, he tried to play again but tweaked his ankle.

"He's not 100 percent right now, I know that for sure, but I don't know the extent of his injury," Duryea said.

Updated November 17, 2017

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