Gaels and Zags collide in key WCC affair

The 16th-ranked Saint Mary's Gaels have the opportunity to all but end Gonzaga's reign atop the West Coast Conference, as the two teams meet in Spokane this evening at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Saint Mary's has been a picture of consistency over the last few seasons and is one of just eight teams in the nation to record at least 25 wins in each of the last four seasons. The team is closing in on its fifth straight year, entering this contest at an impressive 22-2. Even more impressive is Saint Mary's unblemished 11-0 mark in-conference. The Gaels have won 12 straight games overall, including an 84-73 win over San Diego last week.

The Bulldogs have some work to do and will need help elsewhere to keep their streak of West Coast Conference titles moving forward. Gonzaga has won 11 straight league crowns, but currently sits at 8-2 in conference play, picking up that eighth win last week on the road at Pepperdine, 72-60.

The Bulldogs own a 53-26 lead in the all-time series with Saint Mary's but it is the Gaels seeking the regular-season sweep after routing Gonzaga in Moraga back on January 12th, 83-62.

Four Gaels notched double figures in the win over San Diego last week, led by Rob Jones and Stephen Holt's combined 51 points. Jones was 12-of-23 from the floor and led all scorers with 28 points. Holt was 6-of-10 from the floor and 8-of-10 from the free-throw line in pouring in 23 points. Matthew Dellavedova had a strong game as well, finishing with 17 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Brad Waldow chipped in with 10.

Saint Mary's has earned its national ranking with superior play at both ends of the floor, resulting in a gaudy +16.1 scoring margin. The team is shooting a healthy .481 from the floor overall and netting 77.0 ppg. Dellavedova and Jones are a lethal inside/out combination. Dellavedova leads the team in scoring at 15.5 ppg and is shooting just over 40 percent from behind the arc (53-of-132). He also finds time to lead the West Coast Conference in assists (6.4 apg). Jones is averaging a double-double with 14.8 points and a conference-best 10.7 rebounds per game. Holt contributes in a number of ways, ranking third in scoring (11.2 ppg) and second in both rebounding (4.9 rpg) and assists (3.5 apg). Jorden Page (8.3 ppg) and Waldow (8.2 ppg) round out the starting five.

Gonzaga is behind Saint Mary's in terms of offensive proficiency, but remains dangerous at that end, averaging 73.7 ppg on .462 shooting. Forward Elias Harris leads the way in the frontcourt, pacing the team in both scoring (13.1 ppg) and rebounding (7.7 rpg). He gets help down low from center Robert Sacre (11.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg). Freshman guard Kevin Pangos has made an immediate impact on this team, netting 13.0 ppg, while leading the team in assists (3.4 apg) and three-pointers (48).

In the 12-point win at Pepperdine, Gonzaga shot a cool 50 percent from the floor and outscored the Waves 21-6 at the free-throw line. Pangos and Sacre led the way offensively with 15 points apiece. Guy Landry Eli added 13 points while Harris chipped in nine.