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No. 10 Zags, eyeing Seattle redemption, face No. 5 UConn

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For the second time in less than a week, Gonzaga will face a team called the Huskies in Seattle.

The Bulldogs hope this game goes better than the last.

After taking a 78-73 defeat Saturday at Washington, No. 10 Gonzaga (8-2) will meet No. 5 UConn (9-1), the defending national champions, Friday night in the Continental Tire Seattle Tip-Off.

It will be a rematch of last season’s NCAA Tournament West Region final, which the Huskies won 82-54 in Las Vegas.

“Last year kind of left a bad taste in our mouth, considering that was the last game of the season,” said Gonzaga redshirt freshman Braden Huff, who watched the that contest from the bench. “To see that from the sidelines, it definitely makes things excited for Friday.

“They’re a really good team, obviously got to respect them, but we can’t come in scared and tentative. We’ve got to come out guns a-blazin’, as Coach (Mark Few) likes to say, do that for 40 minutes and hopefully come out with a win.”

Huff scored a team-high 17 points in the Bulldogs’ 78-40 victory against Mississippi Valley State on Monday in Spokane, Wash.

He couldn’t help but look forward to Friday’s showdown.

“You come to a school like (Gonzaga) to play big games like that,” Huff said. “It’s going to be a fun one. I’m excited to play (UConn) in Seattle in front of what should be a lot of our fans. Hopefully we get a good crowd and come out with a lot of energy.”

Huff, who has yet to start a game, puts up 11.7 points per game, one of five Zags averaging double-digit scoring. Graham Ike (14.2 ppg), Anton Watson (13.9), Nolan Hickman (12.6) and Ryan Nembhard (11.8) are the others.

Mississippi Valley State coach George Ivory, whose team dropped to 0-10 with its loss to Gonzaga, has a unique perspective on the Friday matchup. The Delta Devils lost 87-53 to UConn in mid-November.

Asked about the contest against UConn, Ivory said: “(It went) about the same as Gonzaga. Well-coached team, great athletes, great basketball players.”

Ivory shied away from making a prediction, however.

“Both teams are stacked pretty good,” he said. “Gonzaga could be a little bit deeper, but both have such good basketball teams. It’s going to be one exciting game. … I can’t wait to watch it.”

The Huskies have won two in a row since a 69-65 loss at then-No. 5 Kansas on Dec. 1 in the Big East-Big 12 Battle.

UConn rebounded with an 87-76 victory against then-No. 9 North Carolina in the Jimmy V Classic in New York before trouncing visiting Arkansas-Pine Bluff 101-63 on Saturday as sophomore Alex Karaban scored a career-high 26 points.

“These games (against mid-majors) are necessary,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “We need some of these so we can get the young players on the court and work on some different things. You can’t play 31 heavyweight championship fights.”

Tristen Newton leads the Huskies with averages of 17.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. Cam Spencer (15.8 ppg), Karaban (15.6) and Donovan Clingan (13.2) help share the scoring load.

“They’re doing a real good job of building their program,” Few said of the Huskies. “They’re stacking their classes so they can absorb guys leaving early. After winning that championship last year, they’ve got the feeling of that. They’re loading up and look like they’re playing well enough to get there again this year.”

–Field Level Media

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