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Gonzaga coach Mark Few expects challenge from UT Arlington

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 19, 2019

Gonzaga sophomore guard Joel Ayayi fires a 3-pointer against Arkansas Pine-Bluff on Nov. 9. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga sophomore guard Joel Ayayi fires a 3-pointer against Arkansas Pine-Bluff on Nov. 9. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Correction: Gonzaga’s first test of the season, thought to be on the agenda last Friday against Texas A&M, could come against UT Arlington on Tuesday.

Oddsmakers don’t agree, pegging Gonzaga as a 22-point favorite. The Mavericks’ last outing, a 67-47 loss to No. 11 Oregon on Sunday, and their 89-55 setback to the Zags last year don’t point toward a close outcome at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

The Zags’ seven-man rotation worked over Texas A&M 79-49, despite point guard Ryan Woolridge (wrist) and forward Anton Watson (shoulder) requiring a few minutes on the bench after being shaken up in the first half.

“Hopefully we can get back home and get rested,” Zags coach Mark Few said after Friday’s rout in College Station, Texas. “And we’ve got a tough one with Arlington. They’re going to be good this year. They are good this year.”

The Mavericks (2-2) weren’t good offensively against 11th-ranked Oregon, shooting 23.4% on field-goal attempts, the worst in program history. Even with the issues offensively, UTA was within single digits midway through the second half. The Mavericks held the Ducks to their lowest point total in their four wins.

Meanwhile, the eighth-ranked Zags (4-0) have five players averaging double figures and they didn’t miss a beat against Texas A&M when junior wing Corey Kispert was limited to three points. He came in averaging 19.3 points.

Gonzaga opened the game 3 of 15 from the field before hitting 58.3% the rest of the way.

“We had to adjust to their whole defensive scheme and figure out the easy play, not just to make a home-run play every time,” Woolridge said. “Keep moving it around and something will eventually open up.”

UT Arlington was picked second in the Sun Belt Conference preseason poll. The Mavericks were picked 11th in the 12-team conference last season and finished tied for second before reaching the Sun Belt Tournament title game.

The guard-heavy Mavericks lead the country at 34.25 3-point attempts per game. Their success rate is just a fraction under 30%. Gonzaga has limited opponents to 27.3% from distance.

Four of UTA’s top five scorers return. Seven players average at least 6.8 points and 10 average double-figure minutes. Sophomore guard David Azore’s 10.5 points paces the team.

Senior guard Brian Warren made the Sun Belt preseason first team, but he’s averaging just 8.0 points after putting up 15.4 per game last year.

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