The 13th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs face another tough test as the Baylor Bears visit the McCarthey Athletic Center for non- conference action.
Scott Drew's Bears are not quite as impressive as they were a season ago, but their 8-3 start, which includes wins over Lehigh (99-77) St. John's (97-78), and BYU (79-64) gives them a healthy resume through 11 games. Baylor's losses came to Colorado, the College of Charleston, and Northwestern by a combined total of 10 points. The Bears are producing 76.9 points and grabbing 37.2 rebounds per contest while their opposition has managed 65.2 points and 34.7 boards per game.
Gonzaga bounced back from its first loss of the season to Illinois (85-74) on Dec. 8 with back-to-back decisions over Kansas State (68-52) and Campbell (74-52) to improve to 11-1. Mark Few's Bulldogs have defeated all of their opponents by wide-spread double-digit margins with the exception of the Fighting Illini and instate rival Washington State (71-69). The one-sided affairs have given Gonzaga a 21.0 point per game average margin of victory.
This will be just the fourth meeting in history between these schools on the hardwood. The Zags have won all three previous encounters, the most recent of which took place on Dec. 18, 2010 in a contest that concluded with the Bulldogs on top 68-64.
Baylor faced another WCC opponent its last time out, but BYU was not able to keep up with the Bears' 3-point shooting as they converted 9-of-18 from beyond the arc. The Cougars were held to 38.7 percent shooting from the floor and turned the ball over 14 times in the bout. Senior floor general Pierre Jackson led the way with 16 points and nine assists while freshman center Isaiah Austin (14 points, 10 rebounds) and junior forward Cory Jefferson (13 points, 16 rebounds) each registered double-doubles. Three-point specialist Brady Heslip and off-guard A.J. Walton both scored in double figures as well. The speedy Jackson is pacing the team with 19 points and 6.3 assists per game. Austin, Jefferson, and Heslip are all carrying double-digit scoring averages as well.
The Bulldogs delivered another solid performance their last time out as they hit 49 percent of their field goal attempts and limited Campbell to 32.7 percent shooting in the contest. The Zags also outscored the Camels 21-9 at the charity stripe and took control early to build a 49-24 halftime lead. Center Przemek Karnowski led four Gonzaga players in double figures with 14 points. Senior forward Elias Harris did a great job distributing and scoring as he tallied 11 points and six assists. Junior Kelly Olynyk continued to light it up with 12 points, 10 of which coming from the charity stripe. Olynyk has scored in double-figures in 8-of-9 games this season. Harris is the go-to-guy in Few's system with 15.5 points and 7.5 boards per game. Sophomore point guard Kevin Pangos is always a threat to go off and although he is knocking down 36.2 percent of his attempts from long distance this season, he is capable of taking over a game with his accurate shooting from beyond the arc.