Santa Clara-Gonzaga Preview
Part of a deep, talented Gonzaga roster, Przemek Karnowski is becoming more of an asset for one of the nation's top teams.
The junior big man looks to continue his recent strong play and help the surging No. 6 Bulldogs continue their home dominance Saturday against Santa Clara.
At 7-foot-1, 288 pounds, Karnowski, known as "Shem" by his teammates," is an imposing figure in the paint but often has been overshadowed by perimeter teammates Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr., and at times this season by transfers Kyle Wiltjer and Byron Wesley.
However, Gonzaga (15-1, 4-0 West Coast Conference) might not be where it is without Karnowski, a native of Poland who caught the eye of Bulldogs assistant coach Tommy Lloyd while watching him play Pangos' team from Canada in an under-17 international tournament.
Averaging a career-high 10.9 points, Karnowski has totaled 37 in two games and shot 23 of 34 from the field in the last four. His 22 assists are five fewer than he had while starting all 36 games last season.
''Shem has done a nice job in the last month,'' coach Mark Few said. ''Just slowing down, being patient. He's just taking shots on his terms.
"He's probably playing as well as any big in the country.''
Karnowski's 16 points Thursday nicely complimented the season-high 12 3-pointers the Bulldogs made while winning their eighth straight contest, 88-57 over San Francisco.
"Shemmy's been strong in the post, just like he always is," Bell said. "He's been putting us on his back and leading us. He's been wonderful for us."
Karnowski has fared well against Santa Clara (7-9, 2-3), averaging 12.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in the last three meetings.
Gonzaga has won 33 straight home games, and 29 in a row there against conference opponents.
The Bulldogs have won eight straight and 30 of 32 overall against Santa Clara, though the final two meetings of last season that came on the road and during the WCC tournament were each decided by two points. Gonzaga has won seven in a row at home over the Broncos - five by at least 22 points.
Facing a Gonzaga team that ranks second in the nation shooting 52.8 percent, Santa Clara must find a way to improve defensively after allowing Portland to shoot 53.2 percent from the field and hit 8 of 15 3-pointers in Thursday's 78-61 road defeat. The Broncos also were outrebounded 34-17 by the Pilots, who pulled down 14 on the offensive glass.
Paced by Karnowski's 6.2 boards per contest, Gonzaga has held the rebounding advantage in every game this season.
Santa Clara guard Brandon Clark averages a team-leading 15.3 points but has scored more than nine twice while shooting 25.0 percent in six road games. However, he's averaged 16.0 points in three games at Gonzaga, and had 22 on 8-of-15 shooting in last season's 74-60 loss there.
The Broncos, who fell 79-52 at then-No. 20 Michigan State on Nov. 24, have dropped 24 straight against Top 25 teams since a 77-66 win over then-No. 4 North Carolina on Nov. 19, 2004. Fifteen of those defeats came versus Gonzaga.