SAN FRANCISCO – Senior forward Josh Heytvelt has a theory that the Gonzaga Bulldogs might be a better road team than home team this season. The numbers don’t necessarily disagree.
GU is 6-1 away, 8-1 at home and 4-3 on neutral courts. The latter includes a 68-50 loss to Memphis at the Spokane Arena and an overtime setback against UConn in Seattle. Some of the Bulldogs’ best wins this season – Washington State, Tennessee, Portland and Thursday’s nail-biter over Saint Mary’s – came on enemy courts. The Zags had two shots at the winner in the final seconds of their only road loss, 66-65 to Utah in Salt Lake City.
“In years past, most of the time we did play a lot better at home,” said Heytvelt, who needs two points to reach 1,000 for his career. “I really feel we play a lot more together and better on the road. We play with a lot more fire when things, the odds are against us.”
Gonzaga coach Mark Few has a road theory of his own, which seems to apply directly to tonight’s matchup with struggling San Francisco at War Memorial Gym. The Dons (9-16, 1-9 WCC) have won two of their last 14 games and they’re expected to be without four suspended players for the second straight contest.
“I don’t care who you play on the road. You’re not going to win if you play average,” Few said. “They’re going to give great effort – we have to understand that. Our past teams have always done a good job of that.”
The short-handed Dons put together one of their better efforts of the last two months, leading second-place Portland by six in the second half before yielding five consecutive 3-pointers in a 72-67 loss Thursday.
“We played well,” junior forward Dior Lowhorn told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I think as seven (players) together it was better than if we had 10. We all know what’s going on internally.”
First-year head coach Rex Walters disciplined senior center James Morgan, junior center Hyman Taylor, freshman guard Chioke Walker and senior guard Manny Quezada, the team’s second-leading scorer, for insubordination during practice.
Without Morgan and Taylor, USF’s tallest players are the 6-foot-7 Lowhorn and Angelo Caloiaro. Lowhorn, the WCC’s leading scorer, had 24 points against Portland. He made 9 of 17 shots, while the rest of the Dons were 10 of 42.
“It always starts with Lowhorn,” Few said. “We have to limit him and work our way out from there.”
Gonzaga trailed USF by 10 early in the first meeting a month ago, but the Zags cruised to an 85-51 win behind Austin Daye’s 25 points.
“They run that zone (defense), and zones have been causing us problems all year,” junior guard Matt Bouldin said. “We just need to slow down and attack it.”
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