Gonzaga’s defense has improved markedly and it will be put to the test again this week.
Loyola Marymount, which entertains GU tonight at 6, is the third-highest scoring team in the WCC at 75.6 points per game. In the first meeting last month, Gonzaga won 85-69, despite LMU junior guard Vernon Teel’s career-high 27 points. Two nights before that, Pepperdine sophomore guard Keion Bell’s poured in 34 of his 37 points in the second half, but Gonzaga held on 91-84.
“The two aspects that have been happening is we’ve been protecting the rim really well, other than it slipped against San Diego for a couple minutes, and ‘Meech’ (Demetri Goodson) has got our defense going on the perimeter by picking up and not giving people easy entry passes into their offense,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.
How would a tie be broken if Saint Mary’s and Portland win out and presumably finish tied for second with 11-3 records? The first two tiebreakers – head-to-head and record vs. conference in descending order of finish – wouldn’t break it. The next tiebreaker is Collegiate Basketball News’ RPI (rpiratings.com).
Through Sunday, Saint Mary’s is No. 44 and Portland is No. 79. The second seed receives a bye into the WCC tournament semifinals. The third seed plays in the quarterfinals.
Big Sky scramble
With two weeks left in the regular season, Weber State, Northern Colorado, Montana and Montana State have secured spots in the six-team Big Sky Conference tournament, which determines the automatic NCAA berth.
Eastern Washington is among the other five teams still hoping to qualify. Glen Dean, the Eagles’ freshman point guard and leading scorer, would like to think he and his teammates could cause a bit of stir if they do.
“If we can just get there, it would give our team a big confident boost,” Dean said. “And if that happens, I don’t think any team would like to face us in the first round.”
Shortly after last Friday’s 74-69 home win over Montana State, Eastern Washington coach Kirk Earlywine said, “Yeah, we crushed ’em by five.”
Sarcasm aside, that five-point margin of victory still stands as the Eagles’ largest of the year over a Big Sky opponent.
Washington State will be short-handed again this weekend. Reserve center Charlie Enquist, who stayed home from the Bay Area trip last weekend, is still out (left ankle sprain).
Starting wing Marcus Capers didn’t practice this week after a death in the family forced a quick trip home to Florida. He is still expected to start.