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Gonzaga men’s basketball team hopes to bring more battle to Seattle

Kyle Wiltjer one of Zags with roots on west side. (Associated Press)
Kyle Wiltjer one of Zags with roots on west side. (Associated Press)

SEATTLE – The Battle in Seattle has been good to Gonzaga the last few years while leaving some room for improvement.

The Bulldogs have won three straight at KeyArena and they will likely make it four against Cal Poly tonight.

“We need to play good over there. We haven’t played very good for a while over there, I could be wrong, since maybe Arizona (in 2011),” coach Mark Few said. “Hopefully, we can put together a complete game on both ends.”

The Zags led Arizona 14-0 and claimed a 71-60 victory. Two years ago Kelly Olynyk scored 20 points in a 68-52 victory over Kansas State. Few was probably referring to last year’s Battle when the Zags bolted to a 22-3 lead before holding on for a sloppy 68-59 win over a South Alabama team that finished 11-20.

Gonzaga is 7-4 in the annual game. The Zags won the first three at KeyArena before falling to Nevada in 2006. Senior guards Gary Bell Jr., from nearby Kent, and Kevin Pangos are trying to finish their careers unbeaten in Battles.

“It has flown by,” said Bell, noting that it’s harder to get tickets with teammates Kyle Wiltjer, Silas Melson, Dustin Triano and Rem Bakamus having west-side connections. “Hopefully, I can end it 4-0. I’m glad I get to play in front of family that can’t travel all the way over to Spokane.”

No. 8 Gonzaga (10-1) took a few days off to concentrate on final exams before traveling to Seattle on Friday.

“Obviously, it’s great for Gary, he’s been a huge part of this program,” Few said. “I want us to play great not only for ourselves but for Gary.”

The Zags have won three straight. Cal Poly (5-4) has won three of its last four, including a 78-71 road win over San Francisco of the West Coast Conference.

The Mustangs are led by 6-foot-9 junior forward Brian Bennett (12.2 points, 6.8 rebounds) and 6-4 junior wing David Nbawa (14.8 points). The pair combined for 36 points as Cal Poly beat Northeastern 60-58 Wednesday despite trailing for the first 39 minutes.

The Mustangs have made just 39 percent of their shots, including 25.4 percent beyond the 3-point line, but they commit the fewest turnovers in the nation (7.1 per game).

Coach Joe Callero, in his sixth season at Cal Poly after a successful run at Seattle University, guided the seventh-seeded Mustangs to the Big West Conference title last year. Cal Poly (14-20) defeated Texas Southern in the First Four before losing to Wichita State.

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