Gonzaga put together one of its most complete efforts of the season in a 93-63 beatdown of BYU on Thursday.
Now comes the hard part: Trying to replicate that same intensity, crisp offense and smothering defense two days later, with a late-night flight home mixed in, against a rested, hard-nosed opponent.
San Diego (15-7 overall, 4-3 West Coast Conference), which was idle Thursday, is coming off an impressive comeback victory over second-place San Francisco last Saturday. The Toreros, who battled the Zags into the closing minutes in two losses by a combined 15 points last season, visit the McCarthey Athletic Center at 5 p.m. Saturday .
San Diego started slowly in conference with key starters Isaiah Wright and Olin Carter III sidelined by injuries. Wright, a senior point guard who averages 13.1 points and 4.6 assists, has returned after a four-game absence. Carter, who has hit 45 3-pointers and averages 16.5 points, has missed the past four games. He’s listed as day-to-day in a USD release.
The Toreros at full strength have wins over Colorado, Washington State and San Diego State. They pushed Washington and Oregon to the final buzzer in narrow defeats.
Fourth-ranked Gonzaga (20-2, 7-0) tightened its grip on first place in the WCC by handing BYU its worst home loss in 22 years. The Zags reached the 20-win mark for the 22nd consecutive season. Only Kansas and Duke have longer active streaks. The Zags are closing in on their 12th straight 25-win campaign.
“We just worry about us,” senior point guard Josh Perkins said. “We’re going to get a lot of teams’ best on any given night. We have to be locked in and control what we can control. We have to keep our foot on the pedal.”
The Zags shot 67.9 percent from the field in a 52-point second half Thursday. Forwards Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura combined for 43 points and a large portion of Gonzaga’s 50 paint points. The Zags also tossed in 10 3-pointers.
BYU was held 19 points under its season average. The Cougars hit just 36.9 percent of their field-goal attempts. They lost the boards 41-31.
The schedule doesn’t allow the Zags much time to celebrate.
“We have to get back to Spokane and really work hard prepping for San Diego,” said wing Corey Kispert, who hit four 3-pointers. “We knew all along they were a top-three team in our league and they’re proving it now.”
Senior forward Isaiah Pineiro’s 19.5 points per game paces the Toreros. He finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds – his seventh double-double of the season – in the win over USF. Wright directs the offense and is a strong defender. Carter stung the Zags last season with 42 points in two games.
The Toreros start four seniors when Carter is healthy. They’re second in scoring defense (65.7) in WCC games.
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