Gaels and Zags square off in pivotal WCC clash

Jan 22, 2015 - 3:34 PM Spokane, WA ( - The top teams in the West Coast Conference duke it out on Thursday night, as the Saint Mary's Gaels challenge the third- ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Both teams come in sporting perfect 7-0 league marks, and Saint Mary's is 15-3 overall, while Gonzaga sits at 18-1.

The Gaels are riding a nine-game win streak, with their latest triumph coming in an 82-77 decision at home against BYU last Saturday. The victory improved SMC to 11-2 at home, and it is seeking its fifth win in six true road games tonight.

Gonzaga, long the class of the WCC, has been nothing short of spectacular this season, and the team is currently in the midst of an 11-game win streak. Loyola Marymount was the Bulldogs' latest victim, as the Lions fell at home last Saturday in a 72-55 final. GU is 9-0 at home this season, and has won 34 straight home games which happens to be the longest active streak in the nation.

Gonzaga owns a 61-27 advantage in the all-time series with Saint Mary's, and the Bulldogs have won the last six meetings.

Brad Waldow produced an impressive double-double with 24 points and 14 rebounds, while Garrett Jackson nearly did the same with 20 points and nine boards, all of which was needed for Saint Mary's to outlast visiting BYU last weekend. Kerry Carter chipped in 10 points for the Gaels, who shot 47.5 percent from the field and used a 41-28 edge on the glass to earn their ninth straight win. SMC also logged favorable margins in points in the paint (42-26), second-chance points (12-6), points on the break (6-0), and bench points (15-8).

Waldow continues to shine this season, as he is one of a handful of players nationally averaging a double-double with his 20.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per contest -- his scoring figure ranking him 10th, and his rebounding 15th entering the week. Help comes in the form of Carter (12.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Aaron Bright (11.6 ppg, 4.0 apg) for a Saint Mary's squad that puts up 71.7 ppg while permitting 63.3 ppg. The Gaels connect on 46.8 percent of their total shots, including 36.4 percent of their 3-point tries, while also converting 71.1 percent of their foul shots. They also own a sizable +9.8 rebounding margin, while sitting on the negative side of the ledger in turnover differential (-1.8).

Gonzaga put forth another dominant effort in its recent win at Loyola Marymount, as the Zags shot 52.1 percent from the field while limiting the Lions to 29.3 percent. In all, four of GU's starters scored in double figures, led by Gary Bell, Jr. with 17 points. Kevin Pangos drained four 3-pointers en route to 16 points, and he handed out six assists, while Byron Wesley tallied 14 points and Kyle Wiltjer a dozen for the winning side. GU was credited with 20 helpers on its 25 field goals, while LMU finished with only 17 made baskets, which included a 5-of-21 showing from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs made 10 treys in the game.

Wiltjer is netting 16.6 ppg to pace Gonzaga on the season, and he is joined in double digits by fellow starters Pangos (12.5 ppg, 5.0 apg), Wesley (11.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Przemek Karnowski (10.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg). Domontas Sabonis (9.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg) has also been a solid contributor for the Bulldogs, who light up the scoreboard for 81.8 ppg while allowing just 61.5 ppg. GU is draining its long- range launches 40.6 percent of the time, and Pangos is only six 3-pointers away from setting the school record for most treys in school history. The Zags dominate the glass to the tune of a +9.2 rebounding margin.

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