Gonzaga-San Diego Preview
Gonzaga has had little trouble rolling over its West Coast Conference opponents in the last two weeks.
Based on the way San Diego has played of late, that dominance could continue.
The seventh-ranked Bulldogs look to remain undefeated in conference play when they try for a ninth consecutive victory over the struggling Toreros on Saturday night in San Diego.
Off to the school's best WCC start since going undefeated in 2008-09, Gonzaga (20-2, 7-0) has won its last four league games by an average 25.2 points following consecutive victories over Santa Clara and Saint Mary's by a combined 12. Though only one of those past four conference opponents had a winning league record, the Bulldogs held those teams to averages of 51.8 points and 34.8 percent from the field.
Gonzaga limited Loyola Marymount to 25.0 percent in an 88-43 road win Thursday night. The Bulldogs led 46-18 at halftime and finished a season-best 13 of 21 from 3-point range (61.9 percent).
"They're a well-oiled machine," said LMU guard Anthony Ireland, who scored all but 24 of his team's points.
Gary Bell Jr. and Kelly Olynyk each scored 15 while reserves Sam Dower and Drew Barham added 13 apiece as the Bulldogs shot 54.4 percent, held a 46-31 rebounding advantage and outscored the Lions 30-10 in the paint and 47-4 in bench points.
"They got a lot of depth," LMU coach Max Good said. "Gonzaga has a good aggressive team that is going to get on you."
While Bell's production has dropped from last season as a freshman starter - he's averaging 8.9 points and shooting 35.6 percent from 3-point range - his latest performance showed he's still capable of a big night offensively when opponents focus on stopping his teammates. Bell had gone a career-high five straight games without scoring in double figures before going 5 of 7 from beyond the arc Thursday following a 6-for-26 3-point slump.
"You can't leave a shooter open," Bell said. "You hear the coaches and guys keep telling you to keep shooting."
Gonzaga has responded nicely from a heartbreaking 64-63 loss at ninth-ranked Butler on Jan. 19 to win three in a row and give coach Mark Few his 14th consecutive season of at least 20 victories.
"The Butler loss was tough, but we've bounced back and we've been improving every game," said the 7-foot Olynyk, who averages a team-leading 18.0 points along with 6.9 rebounds.
That likely does not bode well for San Diego (11-11, 4-3), which has followed a five-game winning streak with three straight losses by an average 21.3 points. The Toreros have been held to 51.7 points per game during that skid, about their average (51.3) during an eight-game slide in the series with Gonzaga dating to a 69-62 home win March 10, 2008.
Bulldogs star Elias Harris was held to seven points in last season's 65-57 win at San Diego, but he's averaged 14.7 and 10.0 rebounds in three road games against the Toreros.
Guard Johnny Dee (14.4 points per game) is the only San Diego player averaging double figures but has been held to 17 points in the last two games. The sophomore scored a team-high 13 in last season's home loss to the Bulldogs.
San Diego, which has not played since a 64-50 defeat to Santa Clara last Saturday, has lost seven in a row versus ranked opponents - all by double digits - since beating No. 25 Oklahoma on Nov. 25, 2009.