Dons challenge Zags in WCC Tournament action

Mar 7, 2015 - 4:15 PM Las Vegas, NV ( - The seventh-ranked and top-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs make their 2015 West Coast Conference Tournament debut in Saturday's quarterfinal round, as they take on the San Francisco Dons at Orleans Arena.

San Francisco took down the Pacific Tigers in Friday's opening round, 62-58. The Dons picked up their 17th win all-time in the WCC Tournament, and they are in search of their first title since 1998. USF has now won five of its last six games, but faces a tall task in taking on a Gonzaga squad that has been ranked in the top-10 for much of the season.

The Bulldogs ran rough shod through the 2014-15 schedule, finishing up at 29-2 overall and 17-1 in conference to earn their 13th WCC regular-season title in Mark Few's 16 years as head coach. The Zags had their school-record 22-game win streak and their national-best 41-game home win streak come to an end in last Saturday's regular-season finale against BYU, 73-70, but they had already secured the No. 1 seed for this event.

Owners of 13 WCC Tournament titles, which is by far the most of any team in the league, Gonzaga is 44-15 all-time in this event, and has played in the championship game in each of the last 17 years.

The Zags swept the Dons this season, winning 88-57 at home and 81-70 on the road. Gonzaga is 1-1 all-time against San Francisco in the WCC Tournament.

The winner will move on to Monday's semifinal round to tangle with either San Diego or Pepperdine, depending on the outcome of their meeting on Saturday as well.

Kruize Pinkins and Tim Derksen scored 14 points apiece and Devin Watson and Mark Tollefsen added 13 and 10 points, respectively to lead San Francisco past the Pacific Tigers on Friday night. The Dons won the game despite shooting just 40 percent from the field, which included a 26.9 percent effort from 3- point range. They were also beaten on the boards, 46-31, but did an impressive job with their backs to the basket in allowing Pacific just 30.5 percent field goal efficiency. USF committed only six turnovers in the game.

Pinkins, Tollefson and Derksen have been the Don's most consistent performers this season, and they will need to elevate their level of play considerably on Saturday to give the underdogs a chance.

Gonzaga performed exceptionally well at both ends of the court this season, averaging 78.7 ppg (second in the WCC) while permitting only 60.1 ppg (first). The Bulldogs are the nation's top shooting team (.524), connecting on a league-best 40.3 percent of their 3-point shots as well. They are ranked first in the conference in field goal percentage defense (.383), as well as rebounding margin (+7.8) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6).

They Zags recently swept the major awards announced by the WCC, as Kevin Pangos (11.6 ppg, 5.0 apg) was named the Player the Year, Gary Bell, Jr. (8.1 ppg) the Defensive Player of the Year, Kyle Wiltjer (16.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg) the Newcomer of the Year, and Few the Coach of the Year.

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