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Zags cruise past West Georgia Wolves in exhibition game

Coach Mark Few has made a preseason point of mentioning Gonzaga’s balance and a roster with a number of relatively equal parts.

Few’s players made the point for him in Saturday’s exhibition game.

The Zags kept the scorer’s table busy with repeated substitutions and virtually everyone contributed to a 122-76 rout over NCAA Division II West Georgia in front of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Six players, three starters and three off the bench, reached double figures, led by Nigel Williams-Goss with 20 points. Eight Zags scored in the first half as Gonzaga’s lead reached 54-31.

“It was good to see everyone contribute,” center Przemek Karnowski said. “That’s going to be a huge X factor for us, having guys coming in other than starters and have the same kind of power against other teams.”

The Wolves, coached by Spokane native Michael Cooney, stayed close for a while, but a 19-4 spurt gave Gonzaga a 23-point edge with 4:32 remaining in the first half.

The run started with Karnowski’s blocked shot, which led to Williams-Goss’s transition layup. West Georgia misfired on a quick 3-pointer – the Wolves were 1 of 11 from distance in the first half – and Jordan Mathews buried a 3-pointer at the other end.

“They’re like really good,” said 10th-year coach Cooney, repeating really five times for emphasis. “Way better than any D-I we’ve ever played.”

Freshman wing Zach Norvell, who isn’t back to full speed following summer knee surgery, hit a 3-pointer and added a three-point play, converting a tough bank shot while being fouled, in the first half.

“Week by week it’s getting better,” said Norvell, who finished with 18 points.

“We have a lot of good guys,” Mathews said. “Killian (Tillie) played great, both Zachs (Norvell and Collins) played great. It’s going to be someone new every night.”

The four freshmen produced 47 points. Collins made 6 of 8 shots and scored 16 points. Tillie added four points, four rebounds and three assists, and his dunk sent GU over the 100-point mark with 6:17 remaining. Forward Rui Hachimura added a pair of dunks and nine points.

The Zags face decisions in the near future on potential redshirts. Norvell, depending on how his knee progresses, and the talented-but-inexperienced Hachimura are possible candidates.

“We have to look at that,” Few said. “Right now we’re kind of looking at all hands on deck, but we probably have to sit down and talk to some guys.”

The 7-foot-1 Karnowski, 4 inches taller and 55 pounds heavier than the biggest Wolves player, had 14 points, three rebounds and three assists in just 12 minutes. He faced little resistance on the low block and made all four of his free throws.

“I felt pretty good, just muscling around with the other guys,” said Karnowski, who had back surgery Dec. 31. “I’m happy to come off the court still healthy. That’s a huge step for me.”

GU’s three transfers combined for 52 points. Williams-Goss scored 15 of his 20 in the opening half. He also had eight boards and five assists. Mathews made five 3-pointers and scored 18 points. Johnathan Williams had 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Jeremy Jones, a transfer from Rice, sat out with a sprained ankle.

Gonzaga outrebounded the Wolves 56-33 and held a 23-12 edge in second-chance points.

“We were trying to get on the glass because last weekend we didn’t do a very good job (in a scrimmage versus Baylor),” Williams said.

The Zags entertain Utah Valley in the season opener Friday.

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