No. 9 Gonzaga seeks bounce-back effort vs. Texas Southern

NCAA Basketball

Ninth-ranked Gonzaga figured it wouldn’t go undefeated. However, taking its first loss in blowout fashion made the initial blemish feel even more painful.

The Bulldogs (8-1) will look to bounce back from that setback, an 18-point loss to Michigan, when they host Texas Southern on Wednesday in Spokane, Wash.

Gonzaga won its first eight games, six of them by 25 or more points, before being brought down to earth by the Wolverines in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game on Friday in Paradise Island, Bahamas.

The 82-64 setback saw the Bulldogs struggle on offense, as they shot just 40 percent from the field. There were also issues defensively as Michigan made 54 percent of its field-goal attempts.

“Every time we made a mental breakdown, they scored,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said after the defeat. “They literally made us pay on every one of our assignments that we screwed up — a switch or we screwed up a coverage. And they made us pay, so they deserve a lot of credit for that.”

The Bulldogs figure to bounce back against Texas Southern (2-5), which has lost two road games by more than 30 points. The Tigers were drubbed 77-42 by San Diego State in their season opener on Nov. 5 and lost 82-51 at Arkansas on Nov. 19.

Texas Southern played its first home game of the season on Saturday and prevailed 76-73 over Lamar. Sophomore forward John Walker III led the way with a career-best 20 points.

Senior guard Tyrik Armstrong continued his strong start with 17 points. Armstrong leads the team in scoring (14 points per game) and assists (3.6 per game) and has scored in double digits in all seven games.

“He’s definitely continuing to improve and showing some really good signs of making things happen for us on the floor,” Tigers coach Johnny Jones told the Houston Chronicle. “He’s played a lot of minutes for us, and he’s done a much better job getting his teammates involved. At the same time, he’s still been a major threat on the offensive side of the floor. … Defensively, he’s been a tone-setter.”

Armstrong has registered 15 of the team’s 39 steals and has 10 total thefts in the past three games.

Texas Southern allows an average of 79.9 points per game, so slowing down the Bulldogs will be a challenge.

Despite the season-low output against Michigan, Gonzaga is averaging 84.6 points per game. The Bulldogs have topped 90 points on four occasions.

Sophomore forward Filip Petrusev is the club’s leading scorer (16.1 ppg) and rebounder (8.7 rpg) and also has swatted away a team-best 13 blocked shots.

Senior forward Killian Tillie is averaging 13.8 points in four games since returning from preseason knee surgery. However, he missed the first contest of a three-games-in-three-days stretch in the Bahamas as the knee swelled up.

Freshman forward Anton Watson (ankle) missed the final two-plus games of the tournament while senior shooting guard Admon Gilder (knee) and senior point guard Ryan Woolridge (knee) both departed the Michigan game in the second half.

“It’s going to be crucial the next couple days to rest our bodies and just focus on that and be ready for the next game,” Tillie said after scoring 20 points against Michigan. “It was a tough three days for the team, but the next three days will be good for our bodies.”

The Bulldogs are 4-0 all-time versus Texas Southern with the victories coming by an average of 36.8 points. Gonzaga routed the Tigers 104-67 last season in Spokane.

–Field Level Media

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