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Zags and Dons duke it out in pivotal WCC clash

The 24th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs continue season title, as they pay a visit to the San Francisco Dons this evening at War Memorial Gym.

Gonzaga comes into this clash sporting an impressive 21-4 record on the season, and the team has won 11 of its 13 WCC bouts. The Bulldogs claimed a 73-62 win at last-place Santa Clara on Thursday night to run their current win streak to four games, and it marked their eighth victory in the last nine contests overall. The Zags, who are 5-3 in true road games this season, have only lost to Saint Mary's-CA and BYU in conference, and they'll get another crack at the Cougars next Thursday in Spokane. They already got their revenge on the Gaels, whipping them at home on February 9, 73-59.

San Francisco is enjoying a solid season of its own, logging a 17-11 overall record, and the team is an even 7-7 in WCC play. The Dons dropped a heart- breaker at home to BYU on Thursday night, 85-84, putting an end to a modest two-game win streak. The setback was just the third in 14 home games this season, and USF will try to get a little revenge itself tonight as it suffered a double-digit loss at Gonzaga back on January 19, 74-63.

Gonzaga owns a 42-22 lead in the all-time series with San Francisco, and the Zags have won the last two meetings and 11 of the last 14 overall. Since 2000, the Bulldogs are 22-3 versus the Dons.

Robert Sacre scored 20 points and Sam Dower came off the bench to add 18 in leading Gonzaga to a comfortable win at Santa Clara a couple nights ago. The Bulldogs, who also got 10 points from freshman sensation Kevin Pangos, hit 61.0 percent of their field goal attempts, but had only three three-point baskets. They made up for it by outscoring the Broncos at the foul line, 20-8, and by winning the rebounding battle, 34-22. Santa Clara was limited to 37.9 percent field goal efficiency, although the home team drained 10-of-21 three- point tries and committed only seven turnovers. Pangos (13.7 ppg, 3.6 apg) paces the club in both scoring and assists for the season, while Elias Harris (12.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and Sacre (12.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg) have been consistent contributors as well. As a collective unit, the Zags are lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 73.8 ppg, hitting 47.1 percent of their total shots and 36.7 percent of their long-range launches. At the defensive end, foes are scoring just 63.1 ppg on typical shooting outputs of 41.7 percent overall and 32.5 percent from beyond the arc. Another major factor in the team's success this year is its +7.0 rebounding margin.

Angelo Caloiaro leads four double-digit scorers for the Dons this season, as he is hitting 50.4 percent of his field goal attempts in averaging 15.0 ppg (fifth-best in the WCC). He also spearheads the team's rebounding effort with 6.3 rpg, while Perris Blackwell (12.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Rashad Green (11.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg) lend ample support. Michael Williams nets 10.7 ppg, but does so on sub par shooting efforts of .377 overall and .287 from three-point range. As a team, San Francisco is putting up 76.1 ppg to rank among the conference leaders, and the team's .471 field goal percentage is second to only Saint Mary's-CA. At the other end of the court, the Dons are yielding 70.9 ppg with opponents hitting 45.7 percent of their total shots and 37.2 percent of their long-range tries. Helping the team offset those figures are favorable differentials in both rebounding (+2.2) and turnovers (+2.0). Caloiaro tallied 23 points, six rebounds and five assists in the narrow loss to BYU, while Blackwell logged a double-double consisting of 18 points and 11 boards. In all, five Dons scored in double figures, but the Cougars shot 53.7 percent from the floor, goading USF into 14 turnovers along the way.