Gonzaga’s one-game week comes at a favorable time on the schedule with sophomore forward Filip Petrusev dealing with a sprained right ankle.
The Zags didn’t play Thursday, giving Petrusev a few more recovery days after sustaining his injury in the second half of last Saturday’s 92-69 win over BYU.
Petrusev will be game-day decision against visiting Pacific on Saturday. The Zags’ leading scorer and rebounder wasn’t on the practice floor much this week, spending the majority of his time getting treatment and rehabbing his ankle.
While the Zags were idle Thursday, the logjam behind them in the West Coast Conference standings started clearing up with familiar challengers on the move.
Saint Mary’s shut down San Francisco 58-48, and BYU handled Pacific 74-60. The Gaels and Cougars now share second place at 4-2 in conference, two games behind the second-ranked Zags (20-1, 6-0 WCC).
The logjam is now in the middle of the standings with four 3-3 teams: Santa Clara, Pacific, Pepperdine and USF.
The Zags entertain Pacific (15-7, 3-3) on Saturday in the teams’ only meeting this season. The conference’s reduced 16-game schedule went into effect prior to last season.
Gonzaga has made strides in two areas – defense and free-throw shooting – in the last four games that have been troublesome at times this season. The Zags have limited their last four foes to 58.8 points and three shot sub-40% from the field before BYU hit 50.9%.
The Zags are 78 of 103 at the foul line in that stretch, 75.7% accuracy for a team that’s shooting 67.6% on the season.
The Tigers have been the biggest surprise in the WCC, but they’ve dropped three of their last four after opening with a road win against Pepperdine and an upset of Saint Mary’s in four overtimes.
Pacific led 53-51 midway through the second half before BYU scored the next 21 points.
The physical, defensive-minded Tigers like to control the pace and rank second in rebounding (plus 9) behind Gonzaga (plus 10). Pacific is tops in scoring defense (64.2), but that figure has climbed to 74.5 in conference.
While Gonzaga essentially went with a six-man rotation without Petrusev in the second half, the Tigers have 12 players averaging double-digit minutes. Senior guard Jahlil Tripp and junior post Amari McCray are the only players to start all 22 games, but McCray was ejected Thursday for a flagrant 2 foul.
Pacific has a number of new faces in coach Damon Stoudamire’s fourth season.
The 6-foot-5 Tripp paces the Tigers in scoring (15.5), rebounding (8.4), steals (34) and minutes (30.5). Junior guard Justin Moore, a transfer from Georgia Tech, is first in assists at 3.4 and second in scoring at 9.6. Idaho State transfer Gary Chivichyan, a 3-point specialist, is next at 9 points per game. Nine Tigers average between 3.8 and 6.1 points.
The Zags have won 14 straight in the series, including all 13 since the Tigers joined the WCC in 2013-14.
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