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Gonzaga Bulldogs face Syracuse Orange in second round of Maui Invitational

Gonzaga looks to rebound from loss to Purdue against unranked Syracuse in the consolation bracket
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It wasn't an ideal start to the Maui Invitational, but as Mark Few stated weeks ago heading into the season, his No. 11 Gonzaga Bulldogs must deal with the cards they've been dealt.

No. 2 Purdue wasn't a favorable dealer in the first round on Monday, as Zach Edey and the Boilermakers (4-0) handed the Zags (2-1) a 10-point loss and a ticket to the consolation side of the bracket. Gonzaga folded in the second half with an 0-for-13 showing from 3-point range, while the opposing 7-foot-3 Wooden Award winner dealt out 25 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks.

A shot at the program's third Maui Invitational championship is out the door, but that doesn't rule out taking the next two games over quality opponents before heading back to the mainland.

The rebound starts with Tuesday morning's bout against Syracuse, which is led by backcourt tandem Judah Mintz and Joseph Girard III.

After proving himself as one of the best freshman guards in the country last season, the 6-foot-3 Mintz entered 2023-24 as an early contender for the Bob Cousy Award. So far, the sophomore has delivered on the hype with 21.0 points, 4.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He wasn't very efficient in the Orange's loss to No. 7 Tennessee in the first round of the Maui Invitational, going 4-for-14 from the field, as Gonzaga will look to slow him down in a similar manner on Tuesday.

J.J. Starling from Notre Dame provides scoring in the backcourt next to Mintz. The 6-foot-4 sophomore has put up 12.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per outing.

Chris Bell, a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward, is another returner from last season who's taken a jump in his second season. Bell is second on the team with 14.0 points per game, up from 6.6. points per game as a freshman, while knocking down 36.7% of his attempts from downtown. He's also 7-for-13 on 2-point attempts.

The consolation matchup pits Gonzaga against another 7-footer in Florida State transfer Naheem McLeod. The 7-foot-4 post doesn't present the challenges Edey does, though McLeod has been a solid rim protector for the Orange with 2.7 blocks per game. As a non-factor offensively against the Vols, McLeod made his presence felt defensively with four rejections.

The Bulldogs struggled to score inside against Purdue's size, with 30 points in the paint compared to 44 for the Boilermakers. Gonzaga failed to draw a single foul on Edey, instead settling for 32 3-point attempts. The Orange have depth in the frontcourt behind McLeod, which should pose an interesting challenge for Gonzaga's bigs.

Syracuse's offense, ranked No. 106 in KenPom, hasn't necessarily turned heads with wins over inferior competition. But the Orange play with pace, as it ranks 16th in the country in adjusted tempo.

With a win, Gonzaga would be placed into the fifth/sixth place game against the winner of UCLA vs. Chaminade on Wednesday at 9 p.m. PST. That leaves a pair of quality wins on the table, and given the Zags haven't lost two games at the Maui Invitational since the program's first appearance at the tournament in 2002, bet on Few having his squad prepared for the short turnaround.