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North Alabama-Gonzaga Preview

As Gonzaga blows through some of its easier assignments of the nonconference schedule, it has focused on its defensive problems.

The No. 7 Bulldogs' limitations were exposed in losses to Tennessee and North Carolina.

Gonzaga, which hosts North Alabama on Friday in Spokane, Wash., has already seen improvement on the defensive end.

While Texas-Arlington and Denver aren't national title contenders, the Zags' intensity was much improved.

While the Volunteers and Tar Heels made a combined 25 3-pointers in wins over Gonzaga, the Zags held the Mavericks and Pioneers to a combined 10 of 52 from deep.

"We've been across the board having breakdowns, whether it was going under on a screen or miscommunicating on a switch like the end of the Tennessee game or playing dead behind in the post," Gonzaga coach Mark Few told the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

"We didn't have that (against Denver). Hopefully, we can capture that and keep it going."

The Pioneers didn't pose much of a challenge as Gonzaga started the game 15 for 15 from the field, while holding Denver scoreless for the first 6:20. The Zags led 31-2 midway through the first half on the way to a program-record 61-point win, 101-40.

"Exactly what I wanted to see is some guys putting in some effort and energy on defense and also on the glass," Few said. "Obviously, they're not North Carolina, but they were the opponent tonight and we did what we needed to do."

The Bulldogs (11-2) returned to practice on Wednesday to prepare for Friday's game against the Lions.

North Alabama (3-10), in its first season in the Atlantic Sun Conference since moving up from Division II, has yet to beat a Division I team, but the Lions have played well in some of their defeats.

North Alabama lost by five at Pittsburgh and by six at UAB, and it pushed UNC Greensboro, one of the favorites in the Southern Conference, before falling 53-48.

"It's time to continue to raise the level," Lions coach Tony Pujol said after the loss to the Spartans, according to the Times Daily of Florence, Ala. "You have to bring it every day. You have to think and you have to play like every possession has a life of its own. You have to go out there and dominate. That's the part that our team needs to continue to get better at."

Gonzaga has one more nonconference game -- Monday against Cal State Bakersfield -- before it hosts Santa Clara on Jan. 5 in the West Coast Conference opener for both teams.

Updated December 27, 2018

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