GAME NOTES: The 24th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs are once again the class of the West Coast Conference, they will try to go 3-0 in league play when they entertain the Pacific Tigers at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Saturday.
Pacific had been solid during the non-league portion of its schedule, going 9-2. The start of WCC play however, has the team currently mired in a two-game losing streak, as it has dropped a pair of eight-point decisions to Saint Mary's (88-80) and Portland (72-64) within the last week. The Tigers are an even 2-2 in true road games this season, but are 5-3 away from home all told when you factor in their 3-1 mark in neutral-site affairs.
Gonzaga has won its last three games to improve to 13-2 on the season, and both of its WCC tilts have resulted in victory. First, it was a 69-41 rout of San Francisco, and that was followed by a 73-51 shellacking of what was thought to be a formidable Saint Mary's squad on Thursday. Both of those games took place at the McCarthey Athletic Center, where the squad has gone 9-0 this season and is an astounding 66-2 in conference games and 127-8 overall.
The Zags have won 21 consecutive WCC games regardless of the venue, and they own a 3-1 series advantage over Pacific.
Sama Taku led all scorers with 19 points, Trevin Harris added 15 and Ross Rivera came off the bench to chip in 12, but each of those efforts went for naught as Pacific fell at Portland on Thursday. The Tigers struggled to find their shooting stroke, converting only 32.9 percent of their field goal attempts, which included an 8-of-29 effort from 3-point range (.276). A poor 8-of-14 showing at the free-throw line certainly didn't help matters, which was countered by a 21-of-29 effort from the Pilots. Portland also controlled the glass, 52-37, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds along the way.
Taku is not overly explosive, but has done his part to help the team achieve its goals this season by posting averages of 12.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, while Andrew Bock contributes 11.8 points and 2.6 helpers per outing, Rivera 10.2 ppg, and Khalil Kelley a team-high 5.1 rpg to go with 8.1 ppg. Pacific is scoring just a tad more than it allows on average (75.3 to 73.6 ppg), and while it is shooting 45.1 percent from the field, including 35.1 percent from beyond the arc, it also owns a favorable rebounding margin at +3.9.
As has been the case for much of the season, balance was the key in Gonzaga's recent win over Saint Mary's, as four players reached double digits, led by Przemek Karnowski with 15 points. Karnowski completed his impressive stat line by adding nine rebounds and seven blocks, while Kevin Pangos also scored 15 points to go with his eight boards, four assists and two steals. Angel Nunez tallied 13 points and eight rebounds in only 13 minutes of action off the bench, and Kyle Dranginis pitched in with a dozen points and four helpers. The Bulldogs shot 49 percent from the field, nailing nine treys, while the Gaels were limited to 31.9 percent overall, which included a horrific 1-of-12 effort from downtown. The Zags easily won the rebounding battle, 39-22.
Pangos (17.5 ppg, 4.2 apg, 3.7 rpg) continues to be the team's top scorer as well as its primary playmaker, while injured starters Sam Dower (12.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Gary Bell, Jr. (12.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg) complete the list of double-digit scorers for the Bulldogs, who are +5.2 in rebounding margin, and they are holding the opposition to 66.8 ppg. They are permitting just 50.7 ppg to WCC foes. The team scores 82.7 ppg for the season, shooting 51.2 percent from the floor, with 42.9 percent of its 3-point tries ringing true.
The Zags are on a serious roll, and there is little to no chance the Tigers have of derailing this freight train right now.
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