Since Gonzaga defeated Saint Mary’s in Moraga, Calif., nearly a month ago, the Bulldogs have endured their share of mostly ups and a few downs. The Gaels, meanwhile, have been monotonously efficient.
They’ve won six straight WCC games, the last five by 12-18 points. They’ve scored between 71-88 points and allowed between 56-72.
“They’ve been remarkably consistent,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of the Gaels, who visit the McCarthey Athletic Center on Thursday with first place in the WCC on the line. “They’ve handled everybody pretty easily.”
Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett has an explanation for that steadiness.
“These guys are pretty consistent workers, that’s the best way I can put it, and they have been from Day 1,” he said. “Early in the year we were impressed with their work ethic and their dependability. … We play pretty much the same every night. Some nights we make more shots than others.”
Bennett has developed a consistent winner in his nine-year run at SMC. The Gaels (21-3) have surpassed 20 wins each of the last three seasons and they haven’t finished below third in the WCC in the last six years.
“It took us 3-4 years to get to the (NCAA) tournament and win 25 games, then we dipped a little bit and lost a lot of seniors,” he said. “We’re in good shape for the future. I don’t think we’re a team that’s going to spike every four years.”
What Bennett hasn’t been able to do is beat Gonzaga in Spokane. He’s 0-8, with three of the last five losses by seven points or less. Bennett has taken two Gaels teams to the NCAAs – seasons that included home wins over Gonzaga in 2008 and 2005.
“I’d be crazy to say the environment isn’t a factor,” he said, “but it’s more the team we’re facing. The environment is tough, but if they didn’t have a good team it wouldn’t be as tough an environment.”
GU center Rob Sacre celebrated two wins this weekend. Gonzaga knocked off Memphis and the New Orleans Saints defeated Indianapolis in the Super Bowl.
“I never thought I’d see the day the Saints would win the Super Bowl, but miracles do happen,” Sacre said.
Sacre is quite familiar with Louisiana. His father, Greg LaFleur, played at LSU and is the athletic director at Southern University in Baton Rouge.
Gonzaga got quality minutes out of its reserves in last week’s wins over Memphis and Portland. Reserve center Will Foster scored 14 points in two games after scoring 22 in 17 previous appearances. The bench scored 24 points in the easy win over Portland.
Manny Arop had four rebounds against the Tigers and eight points and seven boards against the Pilots.
“Will came in and that’s kind of what he needs to do,” Few said. “He’s got another weekend with his career winding down where it looks like he could probably help us.”
Gonzaga is one win from its 13th consecutive 20-win season, which started with Dan Monson’s 24-10 campaign in 1997-98. Their lowest win total during that span was 23. … GU’s Elias Harris and Saint Mary’s Omar Samhan are the WCC’s co-players of the month for January. Harris averaged 20.9 points and 11 rebounds. He had 31 points and 13 rebounds against Saint Mary’s. Samhan averaged 23.1 points and 11.4 rebounds. He had 31 points and 12 boards against Gonzaga.