Tigers face uphill climb in clash with Bulldogs

Dec 15, 2014 - 3:23 PM Spokane, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of teams at opposite ends of the success spectrum get together in the state of Washington on Monday, as the Tigers of Texas Southern pay a visit to the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Texas Southern has won only one of its first eight games, that lone triumph coming in a 71-59 decision against Lamar back on Nov. 26. Since then, the Tigers have dropped three straight, the most recent of which being a 75-50 verdict at Florida last Friday.

TSU is playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation, as it has already faced Indiana, Tennessee, SMU, Baylor and Florida, and in addition to this clash with Gonzaga, bouts with Michigan State and Kansas State are still to come.

Meanwhile, it's been business as usual for the Bulldogs, as they enter this fray at 9-1, with six victories taking place at home. Gonzaga is fresh off an 87-74 win at UCLA, in a game they led from the start. The Bruins were GU's third straight opponent from the Pac-12 Conference, following an 81-66 victory over Washington State and a 66-63 loss at Arizona.

Gonzaga owns a 31-game home winning streak, which is currently the second- longest streak in the country behind Duke's 37-game run.

The Bulldogs won the only previous meeting between these two teams, doubling up the Tigers at home in December of 2008, 84-42.

Texas Southern shot just 33.3 percent from the field, which included a 5-of-19 showing from 3-point range in what wound up being a 25-point loss at Florida last Friday. The Tigers did get solid individual efforts from Deverell Biggs (18 points) and Chris Thomas (15 points), although they went a combined 10- of-26 from the floor. At the other end, the Gators managed a 54.4 percent shooting effort, which saw them drain seven treys.

Having gotten off to such a poor start, it's not surprising to see Texas Southern generating just 59.9 ppg, as the team as a whole is connecting on only 39.8 percent of its total shots, with a woeful 26.9 percent of its 3- point tries being successful. Thomas (16.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Biggs (11.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.0 apg) are the only two double-digit scorers for the Tigers, who have also had a difficult time stopping the opposition from doing pretty much what they want (74.5 ppg).

Kyle Wiltjer poured in 24 points and former USC Trojan Byron Wesley added 20 of his own to help propel Gonzaga to its recent win at UCLA. Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis chipped in 10 points apiece for the Bulldogs, who made good on 58.5 percent of their total shots, which included a 9-of-19 showing from beyond the arc. Wiltjer was 3-of-5 from distance. Wesley grabbed nine boards to lead the team's rebounding effort, which narrowly beat UCLA's, 34-30. The Bruins shot only 32.3 percent in the first half before turning it on after intermission to drop 51.7 percent. Gonzaga finished with 20 assists, to only 11 for UCLA, as Kevin Pangos and Wesley dished out four helpers each.

Wiltjer paces five double-digit scorers for Gonzaga, as he is netting 17.2 ppg and he is one of four regulars who are shooting better than 52 percent from the floor. As a team, the Zags are averaging 84.7 ppg while permitting 61.6 ppg. They have dominated the boards in working their way to a +11.4 rebounding advantage, while also doing a decent job protecting the basketball and goading the opposition into more than a few mistakes (+2.3 turnover differential). Getting off to a fast start has been the key to the team's early success, as it is outscoring foes by more than 15 points on average in the opening half.

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