When Gonzaga is on its game at both ends of the floor, coach Mark Few knows how dominant his team can be.
Coming off an impressive victory over another of the West Coast Conference’s top teams, the third-ranked Bulldogs try to extend the nation’s longest home winning streak Saturday against a Pacific squad that’s near the bottom of the league.
Off to the program’s best start, Gonzaga (19-1, 8-0) took sole possession of first place in the WCC with a 68-47 victory over Saint Mary’s on Thursday. Kevin Pangos had a team-high 14 points as the nation’s top-shooting team made 52.9 percent of its attempts and held the Gaels to 36.0 percent as the visitors matched a season low for points.
Article continues below ...
Saint Mary’s got within three in the second half but Gonzaga used a 22-2 run to pull away for its 12th straight victory and 35th in a row at home.
"Our defense got better and better as the game went on," said Few, whose team has won 31 consecutive league home games. "I was more impressed with how we defended from probably the 15-minute mark of the second half down. How we took care of the ball, moved it and pretty much got the shots we wanted to get.
"When we’re at our best, that’s who we are. When we’re doing that we’re pretty good."
Gonzaga, which allows WCC bests of 60.8 points per game and 38.4 percent shooting, has held four of its last five opponents to 57 points or fewer. Loyola Marymount and Saint Mary’s totaled 102 and shot 32.4 percent overall – 7 for 36 from 3-point range – in the last two.
”They’re going to score,” Gaels coach Randy Bennett said of Gonzaga. ”You can limit them, but they’re going to score, so you’ve got to put up some points.”
That could be a tough task for Pacific (10-10, 2-6), which ranks seventh in the WCC at 66.4 points per game. It’s averaged 61.3 on 36.0 percent shooting while losing three straight to Gonzaga by an average of 19 points.
Pangos has put up 15.3 per game during that winning streak against Tigers, and could have more of an opportunity Saturday to become familiar with new backcourt mate Eric McClellan.
After transferring from Vanderbilt following a violation of the school’s academic policy last winter that led to his dismissal, McClellan didn’t make his Gonzaga debut until Thursday because of a foot problem. The junior, who began his collegiate career at Tulsa in 2011-12 and averaged 14.3 points in 12 games for the Commodores, hit a pair of free throws and missed his only field-goal attempt in five minutes against the Gaels.
"It was great being out there with my teammates," McClellan said. "It was a small opportunity but I don’t take anything for granted."
McClellan could see more minutes against Pacific, which has dropped six of eight after losing its second straight road contest Thursday, 72-69 at Portland, on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
Sophomore T.J. Wallace averages team highs of 13.2 points with 6.0 rebounds, and recorded his third career double-double with 11 and 10 boards but shot just 4 for 13 and had six turnovers.
Wallace missed 15 of 20 shots from the field against Gonzaga last season.
Pacific has lost 13 straight against Top 25 teams.