The Lewis-Clark State College Warriors will try to shock the world as they leave the NAIA ranks to challenge the No. 12 Gonzaga Bulldogs at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The Warriors have won their first nine games to build the best start in program history. Second-year head coach Brandon Rinta's squad is playing with a lot of confidence after winning both its games at the Flagship Inn Classic, hosted by Southern Oregon. Although it did not count towards their record, the Warriors played Montana on Nov. 1 in an exhibition. LCSC did not fare well against its Division I competition in the contest, as it fell 86-68 to the Grizzlies, who are currently 3-2. This game will also count as an exhibition game for the Warriors.
Mark Few's Bulldogs are no longer just a lovable mid-major capable of an upset or two in March. Gonzaga is operating like a well-oiled machine this season with a 6-0 start and 26.2 point average margin of victory. Three of its victims (West Virginia, Clemson, and Oklahoma) were from power conferences and the most recent team the Zags conquered was Davidson, the defending Southern Conference champions.
The Bulldogs are 9-0 versus LCSC in their history. Gonzaga rolled to a 103-61 decision on Dec. 16, 2010, which was the first time the schools had met in 12 years.
LCSC is led by senior forward P.J. Bolte, who is pacing the squad with 19.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Junior guard Jacob Champoux is second on the team with 13.8 points on 53.9 percent shooting from the floor. The Warriors will have a definite size disadvantage, as they do not have a player taller than 6-6 on their roster. However, they do have quite a few players capable of shooting from distance. Only two of the 12 players who have seen action this season have not drained a three-pointer. Champoux has drilled 13-of-19 from three-point range.
Although Gonzaga no longer has its defensive force of a center Robert Sacre, it is still thriving on the offensive end with an average of 82.2 ppg on 52.3 percent shooting from the field. Senior forward Elias Harris is having his best campaign yet with averages of 15.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. The 6-8, 239-pound German native bull-dozes his way to points with a 55.7 field goal percentage. Sharpshooting point guard Kevin Pangos knocked down five from long distance to help the Zags down Davidson and win the Old Spice Classic on Sunday. The sophomore is converting 40.6 percent of his attempts from behind the arc. Kelly Olynk and Przemek Karnowski are also scoring in double figures, while Gary Bell Jr. is just under that mark with 9.7 ppg.