Suggs stepping up as No. 1 Gonzaga faces Northwestern State
Just four games into his college career, Jalen Suggs is living up to his billing as the most ballyhooed recruit in Gonzaga history.
The player rising up the NBA mock drafts aims for another strong performance when the top-ranked Bulldogs (4-0) face lowly Northwestern State on Monday night in Spokane, Wash.
Suggs stood out with 24 points and eight assists in his debut against Kansas on Nov. 26 and his fourth game was even better. He made 7 of 10 3-pointers while producing 27 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals in Saturday’s 99-88 victory over No. 3 Iowa on a neutral court at Sioux Falls, S.D.
The huge performance against the Hawkeyes occurred in Gonzaga’s first game since Dec. 2 due to the program shutting down because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
“This game, for me particularly, was a really good learning experience,” the 6-foot-4 Suggs said after the win. “I had a couple of talks with Coach (Mark Few) about slowing down, keeping it simple. When we all play together, we’re really hard to stop.”
Suggs’ stellar outing against the Hawkeyes increased the chatter that the likely one-and-done player will be in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Suggs, who is averaging 16.8 points and 5.8 assists, is aware of the buzz surrounding his name but he is more focused on enjoying this season.
“It’s great to hear, but I’m not focused on that,” Suggs said of the NBA draft speculation. “I’m focused on the here and the now.
“I think (my teammates) along with the coaching staff have done a great job of keeping me grounded and helping me just keep the outside noise out, and continue to work every day. That’s what I continue to do, and whatever happens in the future happens. But for now, I’m locked in with my guys here.”
Suggs and his mates have averaged 94.5 points in their four victories. Drew Timme is contributing 21.3 points and seven rebounds per game and Corey Kispert is averaging 20 points.
Joel Ayayi is averaging 13 points and 10.3 rebounds after a superb outing against the Hawkeyes in which the 6-foot-5 guard collected a career-high 18 rebounds and also had 11 points and six assists.
Gonzaga doesn’t figure to have to do much more than roll out the basketballs in the contest against Northwestern State (1-7).
The Demons will be playing their third road game in a four-day stretch, and lost each of the first two by 27 points. Northwestern State lost 82-55 at Tulsa on Friday and 94-67 at Missouri State on Saturday night.
Carvell Teasett scored 14 points in 14 minutes off the bench against Missouri State and he is averaging 16 points over the past three games.
Trenton Massner, who leads the Demons with an 11.7-point scoring average, had 10 points against Missouri State.
The Demons shot just 37.1 percent from the field against the Bears. Northwestern State led 27-25 with under five minutes to go in the first half before being outscored 50-17 over the next 13-plus minutes to fall behind by 31.
“You had a situation where they executed unbelievably and knocked down shots,” Demons coach Mike McConathy said afterward. “They had a stretch late in the first half and for about the first 10 minutes of the second half where everything they shot from the 3-point line went in.”
Jairus Roberson (10.8) and Jamaure Gregg (10.6) also average in double figures for Northwestern State, which averages 69.5 points per game.
Among the Demons’ setbacks was a season-opening, 101-58 road loss against then-No. 13 Texas Tech.
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