No. 8 Gonzaga looks to flex muscle vs. Mississippi Valley St.
No. 8 Gonzaga's primary objective heading into Thursday's nonconference home game against Mississippi Valley State is to fine tune itself for an anticipated matchup two days later with No. 16 Arizona.
Mississippi Valley State enters the game 0-8 in the midst of a 14-game road stretch before playing its first home contest on Jan. 7. The Delta Devils already have sustained lopsided losses to Northwestern (94-63), West Virginia (107-66), Michigan State (100-53) and Indiana (85-52).
"My guys continued to play hard," Mississippi Valley State third-year coach Andre Payne said after the loss to the Hoosiers on Sunday. "I know Indiana has a great program. So, when they stepped on the floor, they were going to bring their 'A' game because they were not going to let another upset happen (after the Hoosiers lost to Fort Wayne in overtime before playing the Delta Devils)."
Gonzaga is 6-0 after defeating No. 19 Iowa State on Sunday to earn the AdvoCare Invitational title in Orlando, Fla.
The Bulldogs have shown balance with their lineup with seven different leading scorers in each of their games. There are seven in six games because power forward Johnathan Williams and reserve post player Zach Collins each had 13 points to lead the Bulldogs against Quinnipiac in the AdvoCare Invitational opener last week.
Gonzaga has been led by guard Silas Melson (17 vs. Utah Valley), guard Jordan Mathews (17 vs. San Diego State), center Przemek Karnowski (22 vs. Bryant), Williams and Collins (13 vs. Quinnipiac), guard Josh Perkins (18 vs. Florida) and point guard Nigel Williams-Goss (18 vs. Iowa State).
"We definitely wanted to play inside-out, give our bigs touches," AdvoCare tournament MVP Williams-Goss said about the Bulldogs' inside-outside productivity. "(Gonzaga's centers) did a great job kicking it out when they were double-teamed (against Iowa State). As guards, we have to stay ready on the 3-point line, either catch-and-shoot or drive."
Mississippi Valley State senior guard Marcus Romain is his team's lone scorer averaging in double figures with 12.7 points a game, but he has missed the last five conests with a knee injury. His status is uncertain against Gonzaga.
Power forward Michael Matlock is the Delta Devils' top rebounder with 6.3 a game. He stands at only 6-foot-6 and 221 pounds. Their tallest player is 6-9 center Terence Traylor, who has started three games and is averaging 1.1 rebounds in 10.3 minutes a contest.
Gonzaga counters with a starting front line consisting of Williams (6-9, averaging 11.3 points and 5.5 rebounds a game) and Karnowski (7-1, averaging 11.5 and 7.0). The Bulldogs also have Collins (7-foot, making 69 percent of his field goals) and forward Killian Tillie (6-10 with 5.3 rebounds a game).
An example of the Bulldogs' versatility was on display last week in Orlando: They relied on 40 points in the paint with 12 second-chance points to offset 27-percent 3-point shooting against Quinnipiac. Their guards contributed 48 of the team's 77 points and survived Karnowski fouling out against Florida.
"It caused us difficulties, but of any of the recent teams we've had this one can probably absorb it as well as any," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of losing Karnowski, Williams-Goss and Tillie to fouls against Florida. "We're deep and somewhat balanced."