Tigers face uphill climb in clash with third-ranked Zags

Jan 24, 2015 - 3:55 PM Spokane, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - Seeking their 20th win of the season, the third-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs take on visiting Pacific on Saturday in West Coast Conference action at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

The Bulldogs, who trail only undefeated Kentucky and Virginia in the Associated Press Poll this week, were pitted against their toughest conference foe on Thursday night, the Saint Mary's Gaels. Entering the bout with a WCC mark of 7-0, the Gaels figured to give Gonzaga a real test, but it wasn't even close as the Bulldogs ran away with a 68-47 home win.

After 20 games, the only loss for Gonzaga was a 66-63 overtime affair versus third-ranked Arizona in Tucson back on Dec. 6. Since then, the Bulldogs have rattled off 12 consecutive victories. The team owns the nation's longest home winning streak at 35 in a row.

The Tigers are an even 10-10 on the campaign after dropping four of the last five outings in conference play. The program was in action just two nights ago at Portland and was turned away in a 72-69 final. With a mark of 2-6 versus the rest of the WCC, Pacific finds itself tied with San Diego for next-to-last in the standings heading into the weekend.

In terms of the all-time series, the Bulldogs have won all but one of the previous six encounters, losing a 70-60 decision back in 1977. Gonzaga has won three straight since then, posting a pair of victories in 2014.

The largest lead of the game for Portland on Thursday night came in the second half, but the team needed a 3-pointer by Alec Wintering in the waning moments to break a 69-69 tie and provide the margin of victory versus Pacific. The Tigers had four players score in double figures in the setback, with Dulani Robinson coming up with 17 points off the bench. David Taylor tacked on 13 points, T.J. Wallace a double-double consisting of 11 points and 10 boards and Eric Thompson a double-double of his own with 10 points and a team-best 11 rebounds, to go along with three blocked shots.

Wallace leads the team in both scoring and rebounding after 20 games, producing 13.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per contest, not to mention handing out 2.7 apg which makes him an all-around threat whenever he gets his hands on the ball. Robinson accounts for another 10.4 ppg, but his 36.0 percent shooting from the field still leaves a lot to be desired for a program that is netting 66.4 ppg, but giving up almost an identical number (66.3 ppg).

The meeting with the Gaels was close after 20 minutes of play on Thursday night, with Gonzaga ahead by just six points at intermission. But then the hosts broke it wide open in the second half in order to cruise to the comfortable victory. Kevin Pangos led the way with 14 points and five assists, followed by Przemek Karnowski and Kyle Wiltjer with 12 and 11 points, respectively, while Domantas Sabonis accounted for 13 rebounds to give the Bulldogs a 36-28 edge on the glass. Defensively, Gonzaga held the Saints to just 2-of-15 shooting behind the 3-point line and 36.0 percent from the floor overall.

What makes the Bulldogs such an exemplary team is the fact that nearly anyone, given enough playing time can lead the team in scoring on any given night. In the last four outings, the team has had a different top scorer each time out, but overall the squad still looks to Wiltjer and his 16.3 ppg to shoulder much of the load. Pangos, responsible for 12.6 ppg, has been tasked with keeping the offense on track, having handed out 100 assists in 20 starts.

Against SMC, Gonzaga came up short of the 81.2 ppg the squad is currently putting up, but at the same time the tally by the Gaels was also considerably lower than the 60.8 ppg being surrendered by the Bulldogs.

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