Saint Mary's (Cal)-Gonzaga Preview
A short-handed Gonzaga team has navigated its first two West Coast Conference games without much difficulty.
Saint Mary's will aim to give the 24th-ranked Bulldogs a harder time Thursday night in Spokane after dropping all three matchups with Gonzaga a season ago.
With two starters out and another hobbled, Gonzaga (12-2, 2-0) won its 20th straight WCC game and 21st straight at home in league play Monday, 69-41 over San Francisco.
Both streaks started after losses to the Gaels. The Bulldogs last fell in the conference to St. Mary's in the 2011-12 conference tournament and haven't lost a WCC home game since the Gaels beat them Jan. 27, 2011.
Against San Francisco, the Bulldogs were without guard Garry Bell Jr. (broken hand) and forward Sam Dower (sore back), but leading scorer Kevin Pangos battled through turf toe.
"It was a full team effort," Pangos said. "Everyone stepped up and played a big role. Everyone contributed."
"We knew everybody had their back," Barham said. "Everybody coming off the bench was going to give their best effort and what happened we could live with."
Bell will be out for four to six weeks while Dower is being evaluated daily, and the Bulldogs plan to take it somewhat easy as they prep for the Gaels.
"Well, we've got to really watch it because we are getting low on bodies," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said after the win. "We'll probably do just some light walkthroughs and light shooting tomorrow, and then probably practice semi-live the next day. This is a really crazy stretch here, with four (games) in eight days. But it is what it is, so we've got to deal with it."
Saint Mary's (10-3, 1-0) snapped a three-game losing streak and welcomed Pacific to the conference with an 88-80 win road win Monday.
The Gaels hit 13 of 26 3-pointers as each starter scored at least 14 points. Beau Levesque led the way with 18.
"We went back to the basics and watched ourselves," said Saint Mary's coach Eran Ganot, who filled in for head coach Randy Bennett, suspended as a part of NCAA sanctions.
Opponents have shot 50.8 percent against Saint Mary's since the start of the three-game skid Dec. 22 against South Carolina, and Ganot said that was at times a problem against Pacific despite the win. The Tigers shot 47.3 percent.
Cleaning that up against a Gonzaga team shooting 42.6 percent from 3-point range will likely be necessary.
"Again defense was the issue, but I think the separation in this game came early in the second half and it was because of our defense," Ganot said.
The Bulldogs had their best defensive effort of the season against San Francisco, holding the Dons to 14 field goals and 25.5 percent from the field.
These teams last met when Gonzaga beat St. Mary's 65-51 in the WCC championship game March 11.