Off to their best start since the 1994-95 campaign, the 10th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs make the trip to Beasley Coliseum in Pullman on Wednesday night in order to take on the Washington State Cougars in non-conference play.
Gonzaga has rattled off eight straight victories to begin the 2012-13 campaign, matching the best start in school history and as a result has moved up to the 10th spot in the most recent AP poll.
For the most part, the Bulldogs have had an easy road to this point in the schedule, winning all but one game by double digits. Last Saturday it was more of the same for head coach Mark Few and his crew as they demolished visiting Pacific by a score of 85-67 at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane.
The win for coach Few was the 350th in his career, making him one of the seven youngest coaches in history with as many victories.
As for the Cougars, since suffering a three-game slide away from home last month, the team has bounced back to capture three consecutive victories during what has been the start of a six-game homestand. Wins over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Idaho were augmented with a 72-60 triumph versus Portland on Saturday. Washington State now has Fresno State and Jackson State still remaining on this run in Pullman before finally heading back out on the road four days before Christmas versus Buffalo.
The Cougars lead the all-time series with Gonzaga by a count of 98-48 although, when the Bulldogs are ranked it is the Zags who hold a distinct advantage at 7-2. The most recent meeting took place last season at Gonzaga where the hosts put up an 89-81 win in what was the season opener for WSU. The last time Gonzaga played here the team fell behind 25-6 in the first half and never fully recovered as it dropped an 81-59 decision.
Gonzaga didn't make many mistakes against Pacific, turning the ball over only eight times, but still the Tigers made it tough on the hosts as they were permitted to make only 10-of-19 shots behind the three-point line. Taking care of the action for the Bulldogs was Sam Dower who came off the bench to tally a game-high 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting from both the floor and at the free- throw line. Elias Harris responded with 17 points, Kelly Olynyk 15 and Kevin Pangos 12 points for the unit as it shot just 6-of-23 beyond the arc but made up for it by outscoring Pacific at the free-throw line, 23-11. Harris, the player with the most experience on the team with more than 100 games to his credit, leads the group in scoring with 15.9 ppg and is also tops with 8.4 rpg. Olynyk is second in both categories with 12.2 ppg and 7.0 rpg as the Bulldogs not only outscore the competition by almost 25 ppg, they also capture 14.4 rpg more than the opposition as well, which makes them third in the nation in both areas entering play this week.
Against the Pilots over the weekend, Washington State controlled the action in the paint as it won the battle on the boards rather easily, 45-27, and held the visitors to just four offensive rebounds in the contest. Brock Motum erupted for a game-high 29 points, converting half of his 20 field goal chances, while Royce Woolridge contributed another 20 points and matched Motum on the glass with seven rebounds. Motum continues to be the main man on offense for the Cougars, his 18.9 ppg almost twice as high as his closest teammate after eight games. Motum is also first on the glass with seven rebounds per outing, which makes one wonder why he would take himself out of the paint and to the perimeter on offense where he has converted just 4-of-22 shots from three-point range. Not an offensive machine by any means, WSU is scoring a mere 64.1 ppg at this point, but that's still considerably better than the competition as a whole which has been limited to only 57.8 ppg.