The No. 3 Gonzaga Bulldogs look to clinch the West Coast Conference regular season title on Saturday as they host the San Diego Toreros at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
This will be a rematch of a thriller that took place at the Jenny Craig Pavilion on Feb. 2. The Bulldogs narrowly avoided an upset against a fired up Toreros squad and escaped San Diego with a 65-63 victory. Johnny Dee paced USD with 21 points and Christopher Anderson tallied nine points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in the losing effort. Elias Harris posted 18 points, eight rebounds and also made the game-winning block in the closing seconds for Gonzaga.
USD followed its close loss to Gonzaga with a pair of victories over Loyola Marymount and BYU, but soon followed a three-game slide consisting of setbacks to Saint Mary's (74-64), Santa Clara (61-52) and most recently, Portland (70-67). The Toreros hot on 48.1 percent of their field goal tries and limited the Pilots to 1-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc, but they were unable to overcome a poor 12-of-20 showing at the charity stripe.
Dee led the Toreros (13-15, 6-7) against Portland with 13 points, 11 of them coming in the second stanza. Chris Manresa and Ken Rancifer scored 12 points each as the team suffered its seventh loss of its last nine after beginning the WCC season 4-0. Dee is pacing the team with 15.0 ppg and Rancifer adds 10.1 ppg. The 5-foot-7 Anderson is a very versatile point guard with averages of 9.1 points, 5.5 assists and 2.3 steals per tilt. As a unit, USD third to last in the WCC offensively with 65.0 ppg. However, it is also the third best team on the other end of the court with only 65.4 points allowed per outing. The Torero's lead the conference in 3-point field goal percentage defense (0.306) which is going to be helpful against the very accurate Zags.
Mark Few's Bulldogs still only have two losses on their resume with two games left after Saturday. Gonzaga is coming off an 85-42 rout of Santa Clara that marked its ninth win in a row. Gonzaga's only losses this season are to Illinois and at Butler. The Bulldogs' homecourt advantage is one of the most powerful in the nation, as they are 118-8 in the McCarthey Athletic Center since it opened in 2004. One more win by the Zags or one more loss by Saint Mary's will crown the Bulldogs the WCC regular season champion. The very talented forward tandem of Kelly Olynyk (17.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.2 bpg) and Harris (14.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg) has powered the team to a perfect 13-0 conference record.
Gonzaga displayed both finesse and power in its lopsided win over the Broncos. It held a 41-20 edge in the rebounding battle, shot 56.9 percent for the game and made 7 of 17 3-pointers. Harris and Olynyk combined for 31 points and 16 boards in the contest. Sophomore point guard Kevin Pangos does a great job of spreading the floor with his pinpoint accuracy from 3-point range (0.443) that is yielding 11.8 ppg. The Bulldogs are one of the few teams in the nation leading their conference in both scoring offense (78.5) and scoring defense (60.5).