Senior point guard Josh Perkins, the Gonzaga Bulldog’s career-assists record holder (and counting), has never gotten respect, largely from both the fan base and much of the national writers.
All throughout his career, and especially this year, Perkins has been under a microscope. He was never in the right, he was always in the wrong, and he was drowning.
NBC Sports just reiterated the whole idea a couple of days ago. It is the same story, different edition: Josh Perkins cannot perform in big games.
Last night, Perkins was the floor general for the Gonzaga Bulldogs in a Sweet 16 win over the Florida State Seminoles, 72-58. Perkins will now go to the Elite Eight for the second time in his career as an active player, the third time since he arrived at GU.
It is true, this team will only go far as Perkins can take it, and to be perfectly frank, there was a bit of costernation amongst the fan base about how long he could. Hopefully, yesterday Perkins answered that question.
His line was nothing of champions: 14 points, five assists, three steals, three turnovers. What his line won’t mention is that there is a reason the win rate percentage of the Zags stayed in largely positive territory throughout the game.
None of that compared to the storm of pressure Florida State’s defense applied to Perkins throughout the entire game. The Seminoles’ defense was absolutely no joking matter. They were lengthy, they were athletic, and they got down the court a hell of a lot faster than the Gonzaga offensive attack.
And steady as a hand can be, Perkins led a sustained attack that never wilted in the face of the pressure, never let Florida State get within too close of a fighting change. He opened the first half as Aggressive Perk, attacking the hoop and attempting to penetrate the Seminole defense as often as possible.
He closed out the first half as perfectly as possible, stealing the ball from Trent Forest, racing down the court, and scoring an and-one with one second left in the first half.
He wasn’t done. Perkins got into jawing a bit M.J. Walker, picking up a double technical. When the Zags needed an emotional boost heading into halftime, Perkins did it, and a bit more.
He was everywhere he needed to be in the second half. In the final minute he finished with four points, an offensive rebound, and an assist. Most importantly, for a player dogged by accusations of turnover issues (justified and unjustified) for much of his career, Perkins did not turn the ball over once in the final 10 minutes of the game.
Perkins has been fantastic all year, guiding the top-ranked offense in the nation to the tune of 6.3 points and just two turnovers per game. He had three off games this season: zero points against Tennessee, six turnovers against North Carolina, five turnovers against Saint Mary’s. The criticism made sense to an extent: three of the biggest games of the season and Perkins struggled.
People forget that Perkins with seven assists and two turnovers in the big win over Duke. He didn’t score a single point, but he had nine assists against Tennessee in the narrow three-point loss. Against UNC, he finished with 20 points.
He was active and he was loud. When everyone assumes Brandon Clarke or Rui Hachimura is the face of the squad, Perkins put himself in the spotlight. He led, just like everyone says he needs to.
We woke up this morning knowing that the Gonzaga Bulldogs have now been to the Elite Eight for the third time in five years. We are in the literal peak of this program’s success, and there is one player who has been constant in the fix. The entire time, he has received his fair share of criticism, and hopefully, on Thursday, Perkins had the last laugh for most of his detractors.