Gonzaga has won the West Coast Conference year after year in part because it rarely loses to teams not named Saint Mary’s or BYU.
The other component: The Zags don’t lose all that often to the Gaels or Cougars either.
Gonzaga’s last non-SMC/BYU setback was to San Diego, 69-66 on Feb. 22, 2014, at the Jenny Craig Pavilion. The Zags, including the WCC Tournament, have gone 84-6 since losing to the Toreros, including 18-6 vs. BYU/SMC and 66-0 against the rest of the conference.
Gonzaga has lost at least once annually to Saint Mary’s and/or BYU since running the WCC table (16-0) in 2013. The Zags have won or shared the regular-season title the last six seasons and claimed every WCC Tournament championship during that time.
That could be a tougher chore for the Zags against the improved WCC this season. No. 5 Gonzaga (14-2, 1-0 WCC) entertains Pacific (10-7, 0-2) on Thursday. The Tigers are off to a rough start in conference, but they were on a lengthy list of teams capable of cracking the top five, particularly with the perception that Saint Mary’s and BYU are down compared to recent years.
“I don’t know if they are (down),” Zags coach Mark Few said of the BYU and Saint Mary’s. “They’re very well coached, they’re used to winning, so I’m sure they’ll be right back to normal.”
At the moment, Few and the Zags are more concerned with the Tigers, followed by Saturday’s road showdown against San Francisco (14-2, 2-0).
Pacific trailed BYU by 21 in its conference opener, pulled ahead 79-78 with 3 minutes, 12 seconds remaining but lost 90-87. Senior guard Roberto Gallinat scored 21 of his 22 points in the second half to lead the comeback. Two nights later, the Tigers fell behind by as many as 20 and lost to San Diego 73-64.
“They’re usually the most physical team we play all year,” Few said.
Pacific’s top four scorers are guards, led by Gallinat’s 15.3 points. Lafayette Dorsey averages 12.4, Jahlil Tripp 11.4 and sharp-shooting freshman Ajare Sanni 9.8. Gallinat and Tripp, who leads the team in rebounding (6.4) and assists (2.6), were teammates at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas.
Anthony Townes, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound senior who averages 9.6 points, is the tallest starter. There are four forwards/centers on the roster, but 6-9, 304-pound Amari McCray is sidelined with an injury.
The Tigers figure to have matchup problems inside against GU’s frontcourt of Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke and Killian Tillie. Hachimura and Clarke combine for 38.4 points per game. Tillie, who returned from an ankle injury in Saturday’s blowout over Santa Clara, is working his way back into shape, but he’s a proven scorer.
“Still a lot (of rust),” Tillie said. “It’s been a while. The first few minutes were tough. I airballed the first (shot), but I’ll be fine.”
The Tigers have battled Gonzaga on their home floor, but they’ve lost by an average margin of 25.8 in the last five meetings at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Gonzaga has won its last five games by an average of 43.6 points by limiting opponents to 49.6 points.
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