Twelve games in, Gonzaga’s 83-79 win over San Francisco earlier this month remains the Zags’ toughest West Coast Conference contest thus far.
The Dons stayed the closest, led for the longest amount of time and led with just under 2 minutes remaining. Put it this way: San Francisco held the lead for nearly 27 minutes. The Zags have trailed for a grand total of 32 minutes in their 11 other conference games.
Gonzaga had its fewest assists (eight) of the season and 15 turnovers tied for its third most. The Zags average 16.6 assists and 11.6 turnovers per WCC game.
The only other game in the ballpark: GU’s 75-70 home win over Pepperdine that came down to the closing seconds.
So, what’s in store for the Gonzaga-San Francisco rematch Thursday at 8 p.m. at the McCarthey Athletic Center? Possibly more of the same.
It’s not a surprise that San Francisco and Pepperdine have given the second-ranked Zags fits, despite standing sixth and fifth, respectively, in the WCC standings. Both have quality point guards, speedy guards in general, capable playmakers and productive offenses.
“Just like these guys,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said of the Dons, shortly after the Zags pulled away for an 89-77 road win last Saturday at Pepperdine. “Their quickness and athleticism, they went at us at both ends of the floor with it.
“We were a little sloppy and careless, especially in the first half (in San Francisco) but we played much better in the second half.”
With a win, Gonzaga (26-1, 12-0 WCC) clinches at least a share of the conference title and a bye into the WCC Tournament semifinals. The Zags have won or shared seven straight regular-season titles and 18 of the past 19.
The Zags, riding an 18-game winning streak, have defeated USF 30 consecutive times in Spokane.
The Dons (17-10, 6-6) ended a three-game losing streak with a 70-61 road win over Santa Clara last Thursday. USF didn’t play Saturday.
San Francisco led by eight at halftime in the first meeting, but the Zags scored 48 second-half points. Forwards Filip Petrusev and Drew Timme combined for 42 points.
To spring an upset, the Dons will have to do something that few GU opponents have done: Slow down the nation’s highest-scoring offense (88.6 points) and KenPom’s No. 1 team in adjusted offensive efficiency (120.2).
Gonzaga has scored at least 83 points in 17 of its past 18 games.
USF is primarily guard-oriented, led by Charles Minlend (14.3 points, 4.8 rebounds), Jamaree Bouyea (13.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, WCC-leading 1.85 steals), Khalil Shabazz (10.3 points, 1.56 steals) and Jordan Ratinho (8.8 points).
Seven-foot senior center Jimbo Lull contributes 12 points and 7.2 rebounds. He scored six points and fouled out in just 13 minutes in the first matchup, but he’s been outstanding in the ensuing three games (18 points, 10.3 rebounds).
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