GAME NOTES: The banged-up Gonzaga Bulldogs play host to the San Francisco Dons in West Coast Conference action at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Monday night.
San Francisco opened its WCC slate on Saturday with an 87-81 overtime win at Portland, running the team's overall record to 8-5 and evening its ledger in road games at 2-2. The Dons won for the second straight time, after defeating American University at home on Dec. 22, 77-69, and the team has logged three different two-game win streaks this season. Reaching a third consecutive victory will be difficult however, as USF has had only fleeting success versus Gonzaga over the years, winning less than half the number of games it has lost all-time (46-22).
Gonzaga played its last game without starting forward Sam Dower (back injury), and got limited minutes from leading scorer Kevin Pangos (toe) as well as Gary Bell, Jr. (hand), but still managed to post a 74-60 win over visiting Santa Clara in the WCC opener for both teams on Saturday. The Bulldogs, who have now won 19 consecutive conference bouts, improved to 11-2 on the season, 7-0 at home, and they are in search of their 15th West Coast Conference regular- season crown (shared or outright) in the last 17 years. The Zags are an astounding 64-2 in conference games at the McCarthey Athletic Center, and 125-8 there overall.
Mark Tollefson scored 22 points and Cole Dickerson logged a double-double consisting of 13 points and 11 rebounds to lead San Francisco past Portland in overtime on Saturday. Avry Holmes added 15 points, while Matt Glover and Kruize Pinkins tallied 11 apiece for the Dons, who shot a blistering 60.4 percent from the field and held the Pilots to 48.4 percent. Portland did nail twice as many 3-pointers (10-5), but the Dons controlled the glass (40-22), while claiming an 18-11 edge in points from the foul line. Dickerson (14.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg) continues to pace the team in both scoring and rebounding, while Tollefson (12.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and Pinkins (12.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg) are the only other active double-digit scorers for the Dons. They do however, have three others averaging between 9.4 and 9.8 ppg, so putting forth a balanced effort has served the team well most of the time. USF is averaging 81.9 ppg while permitting 77.0 ppg, and the team is shooting a lights-out 51.1 percent from the floor, which includes a 38.2 percent showing from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, its foes are draining 39.5 percent of their long-range launches.
With its two top scorers either missing or hampered, the Bulldogs turned to senior guard David Stockton to lead them to victory over Santa Clara on Saturday, and he responded by scoring a career-high 21 points. Pangos, who received treatment for his ailing toe in the second half, tallied 17 points, while Przemek Karnowski finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. Gonzaga shot 47.9 percent from the floor, but won the game at the free-throw line by claiming a 23-6 advantage. The Zags also turned 15 Santa Clara turnovers into 28 points. Pangos (18.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.2 apg), Dower (13.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Bell, Jr. (12.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.0 apg) are all enjoying impressive starts to the campaign, and the team as a whole has been downright dominant in several areas, including scoring (84.5 ppg), shooting (.520 overall, .432 3-point range) and on the glass (+4.0 margin). Karnowski is close to joining the double-digit scorer's club, as he nets 9.8 ppg while spearheading GU's rebounding effort with 8.0 caroms per contest. Defensively, the team is yielding 70.0 ppg, with foes knocking down only 41.2 percent of their total shots, which includes a 31.7 percent effort from downtown.
While USF has the ability to score in bunches, it allows far too many points at the other end, setting the team up for heartache against a Gonzaga squad that, if healthy, is as potent as any in the country. The superior talent on the Zags' roster, coupled with one of the best homecourt advantages anywhere, spells doom for the Dons.
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