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Gonzaga hopes to zero in on Washington’s zone

Washington first-year coach Mike Hopkins yells at his players during the second half of the Eastern Washington game Nov. 12. (DEAN RUTZ / AP)
Washington first-year coach Mike Hopkins yells at his players during the second half of the Eastern Washington game Nov. 12. (DEAN RUTZ / AP)

SEATTLE – The key matchup in this one is simple: Gonzaga’s zone offense vs. Washington’s zone defense.

The Huskies essentially play 40 minutes of zone under first-year coach Mike Hopkins, who is an aficionado in the extended 2-3 after serving 22 years as an assistant under Jim Boeheim at Syracuse.

Washington’s zone has had mixed success. The Huskies are yielding 77 points per game on 47.3-percent shooting, but they’ve forced nearly 16 turnovers per game. Washington shut down No. 2 Kansas on the perimeter during a 74-65 win Wednesday.

Gonzaga had no issues against Howard’s zone in a 106-69 victory, but the Huskies have more size, length and athleticism than the Bison. Josh Perkins, who was 1 of 7 on 3s against Villanova, and GU’s perimeter shooters can help open up room to operate if they’re able to connect from distance.

Gonzaga ran into Syracuse’s zone a couple of times in the NCAA Tournament. The Zags blew a 57-48 lead in the final 5:20 against the Orange in the 2016 Sweet 16 in Chicago. Syracuse closed with a 15-3 run for a 63-60 win.

The eighth-seeded Zags fell to No. 1-seeded Syracuse 87-65 in the second round in 2010.

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