Spokane, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - The 13th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs bring the curtain down on their season-opening, four-game homestand on Thursday, as they play host to long-time rivals, the Washington State Cougars.
Both teams come in sporting undefeated records, with Washington State sitting at 2-0 and Gonzaga at 3-0. The Cougars leads the all-time series, 98-49, but the Bulldogs have won the last two meetings.
Washington State is playing its first road game of the season, as the team took care of both CSU Bakersfield (62-56) and Lamar (84-64) in front of the hometown faithful. This is the first of several tough games the Cougars will play during the non-conference portion of their schedule, as still to come are bouts with Butler and either Oklahoma State or Purdue, those games being a part of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Florida over the Thanksgiving holiday. WSU opens Pac-12 Conference play at Arizona on Jan. 2, 2014.
Gonzaga's road to early perfection has come as a result of double-digit home wins over Bryant (100-76), Colorado State (93-61) and Oakland (82-67). The Bulldogs, who are once again considered the class of the West Coast Conference, have a couple of tough bouts beyond this one prior to starting league play against Santa Clara at home on Dec. 28, as they will take on Baylor as part of the Maui Invitational, as well as Big 12 foes West Virginia and Kansas State, both away from home.
While it's only been two games, Washington State is already showing signs that it may surprise some folks this season. The team boasts only two double-digit scorers right now, but DaVonte Lacy has been a beast in averaging 24.5 ppg on the strength of his .467 field goal percentage. He grabs 5.0 rpg and also leads the club in steals with six. Ike Iroegbu is netting 10.5 ppg, and he has been lights out from the field (.636). Overall, the Cougars are putting up 73.0 ppg while allowing 60.0 ppg. They are shooting just 39.8 percent from the field as a team, but they are +7.0 in rebounding margin and +3.0 in turnover margin.
Lacey poured in 21 points, Dexter Kemich-Drew had 15 and Iroegbu 13 for Washington State in its recent win over Lamar. The Cougars rebounded from a lackluster first half (.389 FG percentage) to knock down 55.2 percent of their total shots after intermission. They nailed nine treys in the game, and won the battle on the boards, 38-29.
Gonzaga has been an offensive juggernaut here in the early going, the team scoring a robust 91.7 ppg in hitting 55.4 percent of its field goal attempts, which includes a 45.7 percent effort from beyond the arc. The backcourt duo of Gary Bell, Jr. and Kevin Pangos pace the club with 17.3 and 16.0 ppg, respectively, and they combine to hand out nearly seven of the team's 16 assists per outing. Additionally, Sam Dower has also been highly productive from his spot in the GU frontcourt, averaging a double-double with 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, while Gerard Coleman (11.7 ppg) and Przemek Karnowski (10.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg) round out the unit's double-digit scorers.
Pangos was high man for the Zags in the recent win over Oakland, netting 21 points on the strength of his 5-of-9 showing from 3-point range. Dower added 15 points, Bell, Jr. 14 and Karnowski 12 for a club that made good on 54.9 percent of its total shots, draining 11 treys along the way. A 30-20 edge on the glass certainly helped matters, as did a 32-14 advantage in points in the paint.