SAN FRANCISCO – By win-loss standards, the toughest venue for the Gonzaga Bulldogs on their journey to West Coast Conference championships No. 10 and No. 11 the last two seasons wasn’t the Saint Mary’s Gaels’ McKeon Pavilion.
It wasn’t Loyola Marymount’s Gersten Pavilion, Portland’s Chiles Center or Santa Clara’s Leavey Center.
It was San Francisco’s War Memorial Gym, where Gonzaga endured overtime setbacks its last two visits. If the Bulldogs want to stay on course for their 12th consecutive WCC title, they will have to reverse that trend when they take on the Dons tonight. A victory would leave the 24th-ranked Bulldogs (21-4, 11-2) and Saint Mary’s (23-4, 12-2) in a first-place tie entering the final week of the conference season.
“We have to keep fighting and keep playing like our backs are against the wall,” senior center Robert Sacre said.
Guy Landry Edi scored a career-high 15 points in Gonzaga’s 74-63 win over the Dons last month. USF (17-11, 7-7) is 0-6 against Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, BYU and Loyola Marymount, 7-1 versus the rest of the WCC. On Thursday, the Dons took their only lead of the night on Rashad Green’s basket with 38 seconds left, but visiting BYU answered with Matt Carlino’s field goal for an 85-84 victory.
“They have a ‘5’ man (Perris Blackwell) who is every bit as strong as Sacre and they have a ‘4’ (Angelo Caloiaro) that can stretch you out to 25 feet,” GU coach Mark Few said. “(Green) has a great first step and can shoot the 3. And those two guards (Mikey Williams and Cody Doolin) have a lot of freedom and can shoot it and drive it.
“They’re a handful.”
Both teams committed 19 turnovers in the first meeting.
“They never let you get comfortable because they’re trapping the first pass, they’re pressing, trapping the ball screen, just trying to disrupt your rhythm,” Few said.