SPOKANE – West Coast Conference basketball, often overshadowed by the Pacific-12 Conference, takes center stage today when perennial WCC powers Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s square off at Gonzaga’s McCarthey Athletic Center.
ESPN2 will televise the game at 8 p.m.
The Bulldogs (15-1 overall, 2-0 WCC), on a six-game winning streak, are ranked ninth in The Associated Press poll. The Gaels (12-3, 1-0), who received two votes in the ESPN/USA Today poll (in which Gonzaga is ranked eighth), have won four games in a row.
The Gaels have won four of the past seven meetings with Gonzaga, including one of eight losses the Bulldogs have suffered in 120 games at McCarthey since it opened in 2004. Virtually all of those games have drawn a sellout crowd of 6,000.
“The atmosphere is unreal in here,” Gonzaga forward Kelly Olynyk said.
“It’s going to be a battle and it’s going to be a hostile environment,” Saint Mary’s guard Stephen Holt said.
Gonzaga won or shared 11 consecutive WCC regular-season titles until Saint Mary’s swept the WCC regular season and tournament titles a year ago. Both teams return most of the key players from last season’s NCAA tournament qualifiers.
Olynyk scores an average of 17.1 points a game, tops among four Bulldogs with double-digit averages. Reigning WCC Player of the Year Matt Dellavedova, one of five Gaels averaging 9.9 or more points, leads Saint Mary’s with career highs of 17.4 points and 6.7 assists.
Dellavedova started at point guard for Australia in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
“He’s just a phenomenal competitor,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “He’s a tough guy. He’s just a brilliant playmaker, especially with the ball screen. Everything rolls off of him.”
Both teams prefer an up-tempo game and can score inside or outside. Gonzaga leads the WCC with 80.7 points per game. Saint Mary’s is second at 79.5.