No. 2 Gonzaga faces challenge from nearby Eastern Washington

NCAA Basketball
This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Spokane, Wash., is known as Hooptown USA.

There’s the annual 3-on-3 summer basketball tournament, considered the largest in the country. It’s also home to second-ranked Gonzaga.

And Saturday afternoon, it will feature two of the top three offensive teams in NCAA Division I going up against each other.

Gonzaga (12-1) is third in the NCAA in scoring with 86.4 points per game.

Who’s No. 1? That’s Eastern Washington (7-3) at 90.7 points per game. The Eagles’ campus is in Cheney, Wash., 18 1/ 2 miles away from Gonzaga.

They’ll play at Gonzaga’s McCarthey Athletic Center in the first meeting between the schools since 2011.

“They’re definitely the big dogs around here, so we’re looking forward to the challenge,” Eastern Washington senior forward Mason Peatling told The Spokesman-Review newspaper.

Gonzaga is coming off a three-game stretch in which it won at No. 22 Washington and at No. 16 Arizona before coming home to defeat North Carolina 94-81 on Wednesday night.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of the trio of games. “I’ve been hearing about this thing for six months from all our fans, in a good way. They were excited.”

Against North Carolina, junior forward Corey Kispert scored 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the field, including 5 for 6 from 3-point range.

“It was just one of those times when you were in the zone. … I knew it was in when I let it go,” Kispert said. “It’s hard not to play with emotion in this place. The fans get you hyped up and pumped up, and I kind of just let it show.”

The Eagles defeated visiting Omaha 97-56 on Tuesday as Kim Aiken Jr. scored 23 points and Peatling added 19 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

“I’m just glad our team didn’t look forward to the Gonzaga game when we played Omaha,” Eastern Washington coach Shantay Legans said in a school news release. “We came out and played with a lot of maturity, and leadership is key. It will be a lot of fun on Saturday.”

Gonzaga has won 24 straight games in the series since 1990.

But the Bulldogs won’t be able to rest too much against the Eagles, especially on the defensive end.

Eastern Washington has scored 80 or more points in six straight games, reaching 90 in four of those. They rank second in Division I in assists (19.9 per game) and tied for seventh nationally with 10.7 made 3-pointers per contest.

Junior guard Jacob Davison leads Eastern Washington with 18.1 points per game. Aiken, a sophomore swingman, averages 16.1 points and is fourth nationally with 11.8 rebounds per game.

Peatling, who averages 15.7 points, is the reigning Big Sky Conference Player of the Week after scoring a league-record 54 against Multnomah, an NAIA school.

“We’ll try to prepare and come up with a game plan to win,” Legans said. “We’re going to go in there and play with confidence. They have a lot of size, and they have the top trio of big men — maybe four — who are the best in the entire country as we’ve seen them play. Our guys will be excited for that game and have been looking at it on the schedule all year long.”

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.