Gonzaga out for revenge against Arizona at Hoophall LA
Arizona and Gonzaga are set to resume one of the best rivalries in the West, with the Bulldogs talking about "payback."
The perennial Top 25 programs have played in each of the past three seasons -- all Arizona victories, including in the 2014 NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16 and a 68-63 win in Spokane, Wash., last season.
"Like I said, we've got something for them. Send a message Saturday," Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins said after a 97-63 home victory over Mississippi Valley State improved the Bulldogs to 7-0 on Thursday night. "We feel like we owe them some payback. It's been some years building up. Saturday's a time for us to get back at them."
Their chances appear to be good when No. 8 Gonzaga plays 16th-ranked Arizona (6-1) at Hoophall LA, a one-day doubleheader event in Los Angeles on Saturday. Arizona-Gonzaga tips off at 5:30 p.m. ET followed by BYU vs. USC.
The Wildcats are expected to have only seven available scholarship players after the team's latest injury.
Starting point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright suffered a high ankle sprain Wednesday in a win over Texas Southern, with coach Sean Miller saying the junior would be out for a "considerable" period of time. Arizona previously lost two players to torn ACLs, an incoming freshman turned pro and sophomore guard Allonzo Trier, the team's top returning scorer at 14.8 points per game, hasn't played yet because of unspecified eligibility issues. The school has not commented on the matter.
"Where we go from here, I don't know," Miller said.
Gonzaga reloaded this season, despite losing frontcourt players Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer from the team that reached last year's Sweet 16. A new Pac-12 transfer backcourt of point guard Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington) and Jordan Mathews (Cal) adds scoring punch to a returning unit that features center Przemek Karnowski and Perkins.
Williams-Goss leads a balanced scoring effort with 12.9 points per game, to go with an average of 4.9 assists. Perkins averages 12.7 points and is shooting 53.1 percent from behind the arc (17 of 32). Freshman 7-footer Zach Collins is averaging 11.6 points per game off the bench.
A third starting transfer, forward Johnathan Williams (Missouri), is averaging 10.9 points and 5.9 rebounds. Karnowski is the fifth double-digit scorer at 10.7 points per game. Mathews is a high-volume 3-point shooter who has made 15 of 39 for 38.5 percent.
"I admire their program, their coach, I love their team this year," Miller said. "We're not there yet in terms of dealing with them. ...
"They can run you completely out of the city of L.A. if you're not ready to go because of how great they are. We're a work in progress. We're the furthest thing from a great team."
Arizona has three double-digit scorers, all freshmen. Lauri Markkanen, a 7-footer forward with a sweet 3-point shot, is averaging 18.3 points and is shooting 46.9 percent from beyond the arc (15 of 32). Guard Kobi Simmons, likely to move into the starting lineup, is averaging 13.0 points. Wing Rawle Alkins is at 10.9 points.
Senior Kadeem Allen, who started most of last season at point guard, will move back from shooting guard to fill the primary role while Jackson-Cartwright is back. Simmons will be the backup at point.
The programs have met seven times, all since the 2000 season. They played a classic double-overtime game won by Arizona 96-95 in the second round of the 2003 Sweet 16.
"We're going to continue to play Gonzaga because they're one of the best programs in college basketball," Miller said.