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Gonzaga, Pacific tangle in rematch

Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams is fouled by Pacific’s Jack Williams on Dec. 31. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams is fouled by Pacific’s Jack Williams on Dec. 31. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The list of serious tests No. 1 Gonzaga has faced this season begins with Florida and Iowa State in Orlando in late November and Arizona, Akron and Tennessee in December.

The list of tests GU has faced in the WCC is short. A case could be made it’s topped by, wait for it … Pacific?

OK, certainly not by the final buzzer, but early in the second half Pacific led 42-34 on New Year’s Eve in Stockton. That’s the only time Gonzaga has trailed in a conference game in the second half.

The Tigers were ahead 46-45 before Gonzaga dominated the final 11:30 and won 81-61. The Zags had more stressful closing minutes and tighter outcomes in 10-point road victories against BYU and Saint Mary’s.

With Gonzaga’s 96-61 win over San Francisco on Thursday, the Zags became the first team in the last 20 years to win 15 consecutive conference games within one season by double digits.

“We really haven’t had a bad night yet,” GU coach Mark Few said earlier this week. “I don’t think we played great at Pacific, but we were still competitive enough to win by 20 on the road. That’s pretty incredible for guys 18, 19, 20, 21 years old. Not even pro teams are able to pull that off.”

The Zags (27-0, 15-0) haven’t had a game decided by single digits since Arizona on Dec. 3 (69-62). The Tigers (10-18, 4-11 WCC) have won two their last three games.

“When we played them, I thought they’d be a team fighting for that upper half of the league,” Few said. “They had a bunch of bigs that are physical and kind of bang with ours. Their wings are very athletic and can put some heat on you and score the ball a little bit.”

Injuries have taken a bite out Gonzaga’s prized depth. Freshman forward Killian Tillie has a broken finger on his right hand and will miss at least one more game. Sophomore guard Bryan Alberts is out with a badly sprained ankle.

“We’re so deep into the season right now,” center Przemek Karnowski said. “I hope they’re going to be back sooner than later.”

Pacific is without second leading scorer T.J. Wallace (12.5 points). He didn’t make the trip due to a foot injury.

Guard Ray Bowles (12.8 points) and forward Anthony Townes, who had 18 points and 16 rebounds in a victory over Portland on Thursday, pace the offense. Forward Jacob Lampkin scored 18 points against GU in the first meeting.

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