Rested No. 12 Gonzaga takes on North Dakota
After a bounce-back win over an in-state rival, Gonzaga coach Mark Few was happy to have some time off.
“We need a break, man,” Few said following Sunday’s 97-70 road win over Washington, according to The Spokesman-Review. “From the PK80 (in Portland, Ore.) to Creighton to New York City to here (Seattle), we need a break.
“We need to get Corey (Kispert) healthy. He was probably 50-60 percent (against Washington), but just having him in the rotation helps us so much. We’ll get him back and rolling again because he was off to a great start.”
The No. 12 Bulldogs return to the court on Saturday when they host North Dakota at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash.
Prior to the trip to Seattle, the Zags (8-2) were in New York, where they fell to No. 1. Villanova 88-72.
Kispert, who has been slowed by an ankle sprain suffered against Incarnate Word on Nov. 29, didn’t play in the Madison Square Garden game.
“It’s no secret I wasn’t 100 percent but it felt great to get back and play against a team I grew up watching my whole life,” Kispert said. “It’ll be good to get some time off my feet and get back to 100 percent before league.”
The Bulldogs have had an abbreviated practice week due to final exams.
Point guard Josh Perkins, who injured his right shoulder in the win over Washington, also benefited from the rest — and the extra study time.
“I only have two (finals),” Perkins. “But I have one in sports law and that’s going to be a big one.”
Perkins, who was named to the West Coast Conference’s all-academic team last season, has a 3.24 grade-point average in sport management.
After making its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in March, North Dakota (4-6) lost four players, including 19-point-per-game scorer Quinton Hooker, to graduation and departures.
Still, Perkins, sounding like his coach, isn’t taking the Fighting Hawks lightly.
“They have nothing to lose,” he said. “Their record isn’t what ours is, they know that. They’re going to try to play harder than us, try to at least, so we have to play harder than them.”
North Dakota and Gonzaga have a common opponent: Creighton.
The Fighting Hawks lost to the Bluejays 111-68, four days after the Zags handled Creighton 91-74 in Spokane.
North Dakota is coming off a 99-63 loss to South Dakota State in which the Fighting Hawks gave up a 17-2 first-half run that essentially put the game out of reach.
“I thought when we got into foul trouble … that really put us on our heels,” head coach Brian Jones said, according to KFGO. “We had to play a lot of smaller guys and they did a tremendous job of posting our guards and posting our bigs. That got us into foul trouble and we really allowed our offense, the lack of making wide-open shots, to affect our toughness, energy and discipline.”
The Fighting Hawks’ leaky defense — the Jackrabbits shot nearly 60 percent from the floor against them — will be a problem against the high-powered Zags, who are sixth in the nation in scoring (91.2 points).
“Our defense is not very good at all right now,” Jones told the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald. “It’s everybody. They have to improve individually and as a group. We won our league (Big Sky Conference) last year because we were the best defense in our league. We had guys who understood our system. Right now, there’s lots of new faces and they’re struggling to get comfortable on both sides of the ball. We’re also playing good teams that are exposing it.”