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Williams-Goss leads No. 1 Gonzaga over San Francisco 96-61

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) Undefeated Gonzaga struggled in the first half against San Francisco, and looked nothing like the nation’s top-ranked basketball team.

But Nigel Williams-Goss helped the Zags dominate the second half and coast to a 96-61 victory Thursday night.

Williams-Goss scored 30 points as Gonzaga extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 27 games.

“We’re not going to beat every single team by 20 points in the first half,” said Przemek Karnowski, who added 23 points and seven rebounds for Gonzaga (27-0, 15-0 West Coast). “We’ve got to play our defense like we’re supposed to.”

Gonzaga, which is seeking to become the first team since Kentucky in 2015 to go undefeated in the regular season, let San Francisco shoot 50 percent and take the lead midway through the first half.

But they held the Dons to 23.5 percent shooting in the second half, and outscored them 54-26 for the win.

“I like how we adjusted,” Karnowski said. “We altered a lot of shots.”

Chase Foster had 15 points and Matt McCarthy added 11 for San Francisco (18-10, 8-7). The Dons have dropped 11 straight to Gonzaga and 28 in a row in Spokane dating to 1989.

Williams-Goss, a junior guard, added six rebounds and seven assists as he torched the Dons for at least 30 points for the second time this season. He was 10 of 14 from the field.

“He’s a really, really focused individual,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of Williams-Goss. “He doesn’t leave anything to chance.”

San Francisco coach Kyle Smith liked his team’s effort in the first 16 minutes.

“We competed well,” Smith said. “We gave ourselves a chance.

“We had a couple quick possessions, a couple of bad shots that led to a quick transition for them,” Smith said. “You can’t let your guard down at all.”

San Francisco shot well to lead for a good portion of the first half, until a late surge gave Gonzaga a 42-35 lead at halftime.

Williams-Goss scored 11 points as Gonzaga put together a 15-2 run that bracketed halftime to build a 52-37 lead early in the second.

Williams-Goss continued to score virtually at will, adding eight more points as Gonzaga built a 62-43 lead.

The Dons made only five of their first 20 shots in the second half.

“We guarded the ball better,” Few said. “We guarded the rim. We quit giving up 3s.”

Gonzaga, which has trailed only 6 percent of the time in games this season, fell behind 16-11 midway through the first half. The Zags clawed back and tied the game at 22-22 on Zach Collins’ basket. Williams-Goss followed with a 3-pointer to put Gonzaga ahead for good.

BIG PICTURE

San Francisco: The Dons gave Gonzaga one of its toughest league tests, losing 95-80 earlier this season. It was the most points scored this season against the Zags. The Dons are off to their best start since the 1999-2000 season.

Gonzaga: The Zags limit opponents to 37 percent shooting, second in the nation. Gonzaga has won at least 25 games in 13 of the past 14 seasons. Their 20 straight conference wins dating to last year are the longest streak in the nation.

KEY STATS

Gonzaga made 19 of 35 shots in the decisive second half, while holding the Dons to 8-of-34 shooting in the half. Gonzaga won the rebound battle 44-32 and converted 15 San Francisco turnovers into 30 points.

INJURIES

Gonzaga post Killian Tillie missed the game with a broken finger, and guard Bryan Alberts sat out with an ankle injury

UP NEXT

San Francisco plays at Portland on Saturday.

Gonzaga hosts Pacific on Saturday, and then will have two remaining regular season games left against San Diego and BYU as they seek an undefeated season.

Washington’s Thybulle returning for senior season

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Matisse Thybulle will return to Washington for his senior season after contemplating declaring for the NBA draft following a junior campaign in which he was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year.

“The NBA is really enticing and it was definitely something that I seriously considered when the season was over,” Thybulle told the Seattle Times. “I talked it over with my family and we came to the conclusion that it would be in my best interest to stay and get my degree (in communications) and grow as a basketball player and take this last year to mature and fine tune everything so I can be fully prepared to take that next step when it’s time.”

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game last season. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from 3-point range.

“I talked to coach (Mike Hopkins) and he gave me some good advice that was honestly something that helped in the grand scheme of things,” Thybulle said. “He told me that if I do it (enter the draft), then I should be all in because that’s what I’m going to be up against is a whole bunch of guys fighting for their lives. He thought it would be a better idea for me to stay in school until I’m at that point.”

Washington is awaiting the decision of Noah Dickerson, who declared for the draft but has not hired an agent. The 6-foot-8 averaged 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last season.

Koby McEwen transferring to Marquette

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Steve Wojciechowski added a significant piece to his 2019-20 team over the weekend.

Koby McEwen announced his intention to transfer to Marquette from Utah State late Sunday evening.

“I would like to thank God, my family, inner circle and all the schools/coaches that recruited me during this process!” McEwen tweeted. “With that being said, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be furthering my college career at Marquette University.”

McEwen picked the Golden Eagles over fellow finalists Creighton and Grand Canyon after he decided to transfer when the Aggies announced South Dakota coach Craig Smith was taking over the program last month. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore.

After sitting out the upcoming season, McEwen will have to years of eligibility remaining. Marquette went 21-14 last season, but missed the NCAA tournament for the third time in Wojciechowski’s four years in Milwaukee.

Minnesota adds Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis

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Minnesota has added some depth for the future.

The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.

Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.

After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.

Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.

Report: Quade Green returning to Kentucky

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John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.

Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.

Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.

Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.

With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.

CBT Podcast: NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline: Winners, losers and who has the most on the line?

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The NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline came and went on Sunday night, meaning there are now roughly 60 college players that have signed with an agent and another 100 or so that have declared for the draft while retaining their college eligibility. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Who has the most on the line? Sam Vecenie of the Game Theory podcast joined Rob Dauster to talk through all of it. The rundown:

OPEN: What do NBA teams value in players these days?

10:00: Villanova has more on the line during this testing the water process than anyone

19:00: Just how important was De’Andre Hunter’s decision to return to Virginia

25:25: Gonzaga getting Rui and Killian Tillie back makes them a title favorite

32:10: Nevada has a top ten season on the line with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline

36:15: #RANTALERT – The decision to turn pro is so much more complicated than “is he a first round pick”

48:30: Rapid fire: Maryland, Kansas, Syracuse, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan. What do they have on the line?