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Thursday, October 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gonzaga men try to put BYU in rear-view mirror

San Diego forward Brett Bailey (32) and Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) battle for loose ball in last season’s matchup at the McCarthey Athletic Center. The two teams face off again on Saturday. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
San Diego forward Brett Bailey (32) and Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) battle for loose ball in last season’s matchup at the McCarthey Athletic Center. The two teams face off again on Saturday. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Xs and Os may take a back seat to frame of mind as Gonzaga turns the page from Thursday’s deflating loss to BYU to Saturday’s contest with San Diego.

“I think it’ll be about who shows up and lets Thursday go and just plays,” Zags coach Mark Few said. “That’ll be the biggest chore for us, getting back to playing how we were playing before this one.”

Few told his players there are “18 games in league and the one on Saturday counts as much as (BYU) does. It has to really burn in the bottom of your belly but you have to put it aside.”

The Zags have not been in this position before with an unprecedented three losses this season at the McCarthey Athletic Center, which opened in 2004-05. They’re 2-0 after a home loss, but one was a white-knuckle finish against Montana and the other was a blowout of Division II Saint Martin’s.

Senior forward Kyle Wiltjer, still limited in practice by an ailing foot, said it won’t be tough to move forward.

“We’ll be fine,” said Wiltjer, who poured in 35 points versus BYU but didn’t get much help offensively from teammates.

It appears to be a three-team race in the WCC between Saint Mary’s (15-2, 6-1), Gonzaga (13-4, 5-1) and BYU (13-5, 4-1). The Zags, who play five of their first seven at home, have yet to face Saint Mary’s and they travel to BYU to close the regular season. Saint Mary’s thumped visiting BYU 85-74 on New Year’s Eve.

“It’s times like this where we come together,” point guard Josh Perkins said. “We’re all brothers, we’re going to figure it out. We’re still going to win the league, I’m positive of that.”

San Diego (6-10, 1-4) comes to town with positive thoughts after an impressive 82-71 victory at Portland. Seniors Duda Sanadze (29 points) and Jito Kok (17) had career highs and Vasa Pusica added 13 points and six assists.

Junior forward Brett Bailey, a University High product, has started all 16 games. He’s averaging 9.1 points and 5.6 rebounds. He scored a career-high 22 points against Santa Clara last Saturday.

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