Dons have been a problem for Zags

GU coach Mark Few says Zags know what’s at stake. (Associated Press)

SAN FRANCISCO – Saint Mary’s ended Gonzaga’s 11-year streak of WCC men’s basketball championships last season. The Gaels and Bulldogs shared the title two years ago.

San Francisco was a primary reason why the standings unfolded that way the last two seasons. The Dons upset GU 66-65 nearly a year ago to the day, dropping the Zags one game behind Saint Mary’s.

An overtime setback to San Francisco two years ago came in the middle of a three-game losing streak that left Gonzaga tied for fourth. The Bulldogs won their last eight conference games and eventually caught Saint Mary’s for a co-WCC championship.

Fast-forward to this week. The fifth-ranked Bulldogs (24-2, 11-0 WCC) created some separation with a 77-60 victory over second-place Saint Mary’s (21-5, 10-2) on Thursday. To maintain it, they need a victory over San Francisco in a 1:30 matinee today at War Memorial Gym.

“We’ve put ourselves in great position to win the conference,” junior forward Kelly Olynyk said. “We got the job done (at Saint Mary’s), now it’s time to move on.”

No current Zags player has experienced a win at War Memorial Gym. Mike Hart made the 2009 team during walk-on tryouts and redshirted when GU last won, 78-73, at USF. Gonzaga has lost three straight years here and witnessed three storm-the-court celebrations.

“They’ve had some success against us,” coach Mark Few said. “It’s late February and teams that aren’t ready to go or aren’t dialed in are putting themselves in position to fall flat on their face. Our guys understand that. They know what they’re playing for.”

San Francisco (11-14, 4-8) lost to visiting Portland 78-76 on Thursday, five days after the Dons’ 99-87 road victory over BYU. Gonzaga defeated USF 66-52 in Spokane last month. Standout forward Cole Dickerson, who averages 14.6 points and 9.8 rebounds, didn’t score and fouled out in just 16 minutes. He had 17 points and six boards versus the Pilots.

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