By Christian Siagian
Los Angeles -- The Gonzaga Bulldogs defeated the Arizona Wildcats, 69-62, on Saturday at Staples Center at Hoophall LA 2016, as Przemek Karnawski scored 18 points and Josh Perkins added 16. The loss was Arizona's first of the season.
Arizona came as close as five points in the closing minutes, but just could not come up with the stops it needed to inch closer. Gonzaga's Nigel Williams-Goss, who ended up with 10 points, scored five vital points in the last three minutes to help seal the deal.
In the first half, Gonzaga jumped to an early lead by going inside particularly to Karnawski and Zach Collins. Arizona, which relied primarily on the interior defense of Chance Comanche and Dusan Ristic, did not have an answer.
In addition, Gonzaga's 6-13 shooting on three-point field goals helped space the floor in the first half, forcing the Wildcats to stay at home more on the perimeter shooters, rather than double-teaming the post quickly.
On the offensive side, Arizona, playing without the services of starting point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, had a hard time developing a cohesive team attack and ended up settling for isolation plays marked by over-penetration into groups of Gonzaga players.
Nevertheless, Arizona's star-studded lineup, with three possible NBA draft picks in Lauri Markkanen, Rawle Alkins, and Kobi Simmons, managed to stay within a dozen by halftime.
The second half began with Arizona employing more defensive pressure and trying to cut the lead, but the deficit remained at double digits until the 5:30 mark.
At that point, Lauri Markannen started to be more effective. Listed at 7-feet and 230 pounds, he showed that he has the playmaking ability to get to the lane and dish the ball for easy baskets. His shots also started falling. Soon opportunities began to develop as Gonzaga's defense extended high to the three-point line in order to avoid giving up long-distance shots.
To make matters tougher, Gonzaga's three-point shooting also went cold, as the 'Zags made only 1 out of 8 treys in the second half.
With less than four minutes remaining and Arizona inching closer, Gonzaga's experience began to show, as junior Williams-Goss played strong down the stretch. Despite five late missed free throws, including three straight from Zach Collins, Arizona failed to close the gap.
Gonzaga remains undefeated and picked up another important non-conference win against a power conference school.