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Hachimura leads No. 15 Gonzaga over Incarnate Word 103-68

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Gonzaga senior Johnathan Williams is aware that this is his final college basketball season, and he wants to make the most of it.

So even No. 15 Gonzaga’s 103-68 blowout of Incarnate Word on Wednesday night was special.

“I’m going to cherish every game,” said Williams, who scored nine points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished three assists in just 17 minutes. “This is my last year.”

Rui Hachimura scored 18 points, Zach Norvell Jr. added 17, Josh Perkins scored 16 and Jacob Larsen 14 for Gonzaga (6-1), which lost to North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament title game last season.

“Jacob and Rui played extremely well,” Williams said of two players who came off the bench to help power the Zags to victory.

“We did what we had to do,” coach Mark Few said. “We played with good energy. We got after them on the defensive side from the jump.”

Few noted that getting extra minutes for Hachimura, a sophomore, and Larsen, a freshman, was always a positive. Both players are expected to contribute more as the season goes on.

Jalin Hart scored 17 points for Incarnate Word (3-3), which is in its second season of Division I basketball. Simi Socks added 12 points.

“They’re a great team with a great coaching staff,” said Ken Burmeister, coach of Incarnate Word. “It’s a tough situation coming in against a top program and a great coach.

“We weren’t able to play with them on the glass,” Burmeister said of his team’s 41-27 deficit in rebounding.

Perkins made all six of his shots, including four 3-pointers. The Zags finished with 12 3s.

Gonzaga shot 54 percent while holding the Cardinals to 44 percent. The Bulldogs scored 48 points in the paint, to 26 for the smaller Cardinals.

Gonzaga, looking forward to a Friday home game against No. 25 Creighton, made quick work of this one.

With the score tied 2-2, Gonzaga went on a 17-0 run as the Cardinals were held scoreless for more than 5 minutes.

A 10-4 run a few minutes later gave Gonzaga a 35-14 lead. The Zags shot 70 percent over the first 12 minutes of the game, with six 3-pointers.

The Zags cooled off, missing nine of 10 shots, but still led 49-26 at halftime.

Silas Melson had six points as Gonzaga opened the second half with an 18-6 run to build a 67-32 lead. The Bulldogs substituted freely but the Cardinals did not threaten after that.

This was the first meeting between the programs.

The Bulldogs have held 63 consecutive opponents to under 50 percent shooting, dating to 2015.

MAY I ASSIST YOU?

Gonzaga dished out 22 assists on 37 baskets, while Incarnate Word had 12 assists. The Cardinals were also hounded into 19 turnovers.

BENCH BOSSES

Gonzaga’s bench outscored the Incarnate Word bench 59-21.

EYEING CREIGHTON

Few said Creighton should be well rested when the teams meet on Friday. Gonzaga, on the other hand, has played four games in the past week. “They are an elite-level offense,” Few said of Creighton. “They’re an older team. They’ve got a lot of guys with three, four years of experience.”

BIG PICTURE

Incarnate Word: The Cardinals, from San Antonio, beat three Division III teams to open the season, but have yet to beat a Division I program this year.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs are coming off a good showing at the PK80 Invitational tournament, where they beat Ohio State and Texas, but fell to No. 6 Florida in double overtime.

UP NEXT

Incarnate Word plays Sacramento State on Saturday.

Gonzaga hosts No. 25 Creighton on Friday.

___

For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.organd http://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Portland head coach Terry Porter brews beer for charity

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A college basketball coach who brews his own beer? That isn’t something you hear all that often, but in the case of Portland head coach Terry Porter he’s been using those skills to help those in need.

For the second straight year Porter has partnered with Gilgamesh Brewing to make “The Terry Porter,” and on October 22 he’ll be signing bottles of the beer at the New Seasons Market University Park location in Portland. Proceeds will be donated to the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation, with other items available for signing at the event as well.

As noted above this is not the first time that Porter and Gilgamesh have done this, with their first fundraiser for the Doernbecher taking place in January 2016.

Saint Mary’s gets big graduate transfer pickup from guard Cullen Neal

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Saint Mary’s added an experienced guard with the addition of graduate transfer Cullen Neal, he announced on Monday.

The 6-foot-5 Neal is the son of former New Mexico head coach Craig “Noodles” Neal as he started his career at New Mexico. Neal transferred to Ole Miss and played his junior season there, averaging 9.4 points and 2.2 assists per game last season while shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

Neal is another three-point weapon and a potential double-figure scorer for the Gaels as he’s joining a team already ranked in the NBCSports.com 2017-18 way-too-early preseason top 25. The addition of an experience guard like Neal should help offset the loss of Joe Rahon as the Gaels also return their top three scorers–Jock Landale, Calvin Hermanson and Emmett Naar– from last season.

With Gonzaga losing so many key pieces from last season’s national runner-up, the WCC race could be very intriguing next season between these two teams as Saint Mary’s has put itself in position for another strong season.

Midnight hike helps unite vagabond Gonzaga team

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — For Gonzaga, the road to a national title started five months ago, in the middle of the night, on a dock near a secluded lake in northern Idaho.

Five of their eight rotation players didn’t play for last season’s Sweet 16 team, and a sixth — Przemek Karnowski — played six games before undergoing back surgery to remove staph from inside a bulging disc in his back. Camping trips aren’t the norm for the Bulldogs’ preseason ritual, but head coach Mark Few and strength and conditioning coach Travis Knight figured it would be a new way for this roster to get to know each other.

So they set out on a camping trip before the season started just north of Hayden Lake at Farragut State Park.

Most of the team bonded early in the trip over their pure, unfiltered hatred of camping and the outdoors. Some players puked after eating the food on the trip. Others struggled to pitch a tent or build a fire. Hiking and dealing with nature didn’t come very naturally for some of the roster that came from major cities. It was a team-building trip. There’s no better way to build a bond with your teammates than to vent over the things your coaching staff is making you do.

After finally getting over the outdoor obstacles that come with camping, late into the night, the decision was made to hike through the pitch black Idaho wilderness because what could go wrong? There were no coaches. The group’s outdoors expert leading the trip wasn’t with them. It was just the Bulldogs and the starry night as they talked about everything they wanted to do during the 2016-17 season.

“We walked, like, two miles at night with no lights or anything. We just all walked around,” Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams III said. “And we came to a dock. And we all just laid there and talked about what we wanted to do, what we wanted to accomplish this year. A lot of individual goals, a lot of team goals. And our team goals were to win a national championship.

“It was pitch black. They have big bears out there and stuff. We didn’t care. We were just out there walking, building relationships that will last a lifetime.”

Gonzaga’s 2016-17 roster was uniquely built because they had a lot of transfers and true freshmen coming into the equation that didn’t play for them the previous season. Besides the talented newcomers, Karnowski was also given the additional year of eligibility by the NCAA.

Guards Josh Perkins and Silas Melson returned from last season’s Sweet 16 rotation, but transfers like Williams, Nigel Williams-Goss and Jordan Mathews were talented and experienced transfers coming from power-conference programs. Then there was the addition of freshmen big men like Zach Collins and Killian Tillie — players who weren’t expecting to compete with Karnowski for minutes since his additional year of eligibility came unexpectedly.

With so many new pieces entering the roster, and heated competitions for minutes at nearly every position, Gonzaga’s staff wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page before starting the journey of a long season.

So after class on a Friday afternoon, the team drove about an hour for the trip before returning back to campus by Sunday. Team-building exercises can certainly build camaraderie, but sometimes those sentiments don’t last beyond a few days. Gonzaga has taken the principles that they learned on the trip and used it over the course of the season when they’ve faced adversity. The trip has been brought up during locker-room talks as a reminder of everything Gonzaga has been through over the past few months.

Karnowski’s journey into the wilderness was another intriguing subplot. After dealing with the horrifying ordeal involving his back the previous season, the trip to Idaho was the first time Karnowski slept away from a normal bed in a controlled environment. Sleeping on a special bed that the team brought with to make sure his back was okay in the wilderness, Karnowski made it through the trip with no issues — a positive sign for his health and the upcoming season.

Gonzaga’s players made the outdoors excursion sound much tougher than it might have actually been, but they certainly took something from the trip that has helped propel them to the best season in school history.

“It’s always easy on something like that to come out of it and be good for two days or a week,” Gonzaga assistant coach Brian Michaelson said. “But is that going to continue for a month? For two months? Throughout the season, especially when times get tough, and you have to harken back on it? And that’s what I thought was amazing with this group. They really were able to do that. And what they did on that trip has stuck with us for five months and 40 games. It’s been remarkable.”

Gonzaga has stayed together after the trip because each player on the roster was fixated on reaching this point in the season. Sacrifices needed to be made when it came to shots and minutes. Throughout the season, the Zags have made things work using different lineups and unique go-to players depending on the game. For a team full of new pieces, the Zags gelled as quickly as they could have possibly hoped.

Part of the reason is the “36 hours of hell” (as one player put it) that helped Gonzaga grow together before things really got tough during the season.

“I just think we give it all for each other. The message before the season was when we got the pieces, that we have to sacrifice a lot to get to where we want to go,” Perkins said. “I think we gave up a lot for our common goal and it paid off for us.”

Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski, Nigel Williams-Goss give updates on injuries before title game

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Gonzaga will enter Monday night’s national championship game against North Carolina dealing with some minor injuries to key players as center Przemek Karnowski and point guard Nigel Williams-Goss updated their injury statuses on Sunday.

Karnowski left the first half of Saturday’s win over South Carolina after getting raked across the eye going up for a shot near the basket. He later returned to the game and played a key role in the second half as Karnowski told reporters that everything with his eye should be fine for Monday night.

“My eye is good. I just got a scratch on my eyeball, but I don’t have any problems with vision or anything like that,” Karnowski said. “I have a follow-up today with the doctor, and I hope everything is going to be good.”

Williams-Goss was in the midst of a brilliant performance against the Gamecocks when he turned his left ankle and was hobbled a bit for the rest of the game. The ankle will be something to watch with Williams-Goss in Monday’s game, but the junior seems ready to play.

“It’s pretty sore today, I’m not going to lie. I woke up this morning and was really stiff. It’s pretty sore,” Williams-Goss said. “But in a national semifinal game, nothing was going to stop me. I think it affected me a little bit. I could feel it from that point on. I’ll get as much treatment as I can before tomorrow. But at this point, there is no stopping me.”

Both North Carolina and Gonzaga are entering Monday’s matchups with some minor bumps and scrapes but it seems like Karnowski and Williams-Goss should be okay when they take the floor in Glendale.

Gonzaga’s Zach Collins ‘walks the walk’ into one-and-done discussion after Final Four performance

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — This season’s freshman class is arguably the best crop of newcomers that college basketball has seen in over a decade. Between the overall depth and one-and-done star power of the group, it was a class that was discussed at length throughout the season.

Until the Final Four started.

As mock-draft darlings like Jayson Tatum, Lonzo Ball and Malik Monk started to disappear from March Madness, the focus on freshmen and the NBA Draft began to fade. One of the common storylines of the Final Four even revolved around the lack of one-and-done freshmen playing in Glendale.

Gonzaga freshman big man Zach Collins and his outstanding play on Saturday showed that we shouldn’t be finished talking about this season’s newcomers.

Coming off the bench and giving a huge lift on both ends of the floor, Collins finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks as he helped the Bulldogs to a 77-73 win over South Carolina during Saturday’s first national semifinal.

Picking up his first double-double of the season, Collins had an extreme amount of confidence entering Saturday’s game despite a poor recent stretch during the NCAA tournament. Collins even predicted to roommate and point guard Nigel Williams-Goss that he was about to erupt on the sport’s biggest stage.

“Well, me and Zach are roommates. And we’ve been roommates all year long,” Williams-Goss said. “And he told me before the game, he said, ‘Look, I wouldn’t want to be playing against me today.’ And Coach says it all year that we just can’t talk the talk, we gotta walk the walk. And when he told me that I looked at him and I said, ‘Alright, let’s do it then.’ For him to come out with a double-double with six blocks, he walked the walk.”

“It feels really good. I know I had a rough couple of games prior to this. I was hearing from everyone on social media about how I wasn’t ready for this stage and how the speed of the game was too much for me. That made me really mad,” Collins said. “I knew I could play at this level. I just wanted to come out, don’t be passive. Be as aggressive as possible with everything I could.”

As starting center Przemek Karnowski went back to the locker room with an eye injury in the first half, Collins and his aggression became a major force on both ends of the floor for the Zags. Owning the glass, finishing around the basket and walling up to block dunks, Collins made all of the plays that should put him squarely in the one-and-done discussion. Collins even willed an ugly three-pointer from the top of the key to go down during a key stretch that helped stop a big South Carolina run.

“That three was huge,” Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd said. “It was a 13-0 or 16-0 run. The wheels feel like they’re coming off. It’s one of those shots, he missed it so bad, it went in. You get a sticky ball sometimes. It sticks and rolls in. It was huge for us.”

“It completely bricked. It was probably the ugliest shot I’ve ever taken,” Collins said. “Luckily it bounced in. I’ve never seen a shot like that but I’m happy with it.”

Collins might have been lucky to make that shot, but there is nothing lucky about his intense approach to the game or the results that came during Saturday’s win. Gonzaga’s first McDonald’s All-American to come out of high school, Collins was a bit of a late-bloomer during his high school career.

Collins actually came off the bench during his junior year of high school at Nevada powerhouse Bishop Gorman as two senior McDonald’s All-Americans, Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV) and Chase Jeter (Duke), played in front of him. Gonzaga still recruited Collins as hard as possible despite his limited minutes during the high school season as they saw a guy who could develop.

“We didn’t know he was a one-and-done,” Lloyd said. “We thought this is a great program player for us who is a high-character kid who really wanted to develop in our system.”

“We didn’t recruit him because he was a McDonald’s All-American. We recruited him because he fit Gonzaga’s culture. We’re never going to veer from that path.”

While Gonzaga has been able to sustain consistent success by recruiting at a strong level, they’ve recently started to recruit at an elite level. Collins and Williams-Goss were both Burger Boys coming out of high school. That distinction is important because only two national champions in the last 40 years (Maryland in 2002 and UConn in 2014) didn’t have a McDonald’s All-American on the roster.

Now stocked with elite talent and an impressive rotation, the Bulldogs have all of the pieces they need to compete for a national championship on Monday night.

“Things just kind of fell together for us. You get Przemek to come back for a year with this team and he can play with Nigel. Zach Collins, who isn’t a backup, a lot of times he’s a pickup. He really picks us up and he can really play in these high-level games with his athleticism. And I think it’s honestly been the formula for the team that we are,” Lloyd said.

Regardless of Monday’s national-championship outcome, Collins is going to have an intriguing decision ahead of him in the next few weeks thanks to Saturday’s standout performance. There is already a “Collins” sitting in the first round of a lot of NBA mock drafts, but that would be standout Wake Forest sophomore center John Collins.

After Saturday’s game, adding another Collins to those mock drafts doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

“It’s really cool to see him get the success in this day and age when people aren’t patient,” Lloyd said. “I don’t know what the future holds for Zach. But I know if he stays the course and stays patient, he’ll have unlimited opportunities.”