December 25, 2014

It won't take long for Gonzaga to find out how it stacks up in the West Coast Conference.

The eighth-ranked Bulldogs open conference play Saturday when they visit high-scoring BYU, which may have WCC leading scorer Tyler Haws at less than full strength.

Gonzaga (11-1) was picked by every conference coach to win the title except by Mark Few, who was not allowed to choose his own team. He selected BYU.

The Bulldogs have won 18 straight WCC openers, including all 15 under Few.

"I'm really happy with where these guys are at but you've got to keep moving forward and where we're going to be is probably the most important thing," Few said.

These teams met for the WCC title last season, with the Bulldogs winning 75-64 after splitting two regular-season matchups. The Cougars won 73-65 at home as part of a 9-0 WCC record in 2013-14 at the Marriott Center.

BYU (10-3) is averaging 88.0 points to lead the nation, with Haws averaging 22.3 to top the conference.

The senior guard may not have fully recovered from an ankle injury suffered Dec. 13 in a 76-60 win at Weber State, though it hasn't caused him to miss any action. He managed a season-low four points on 2-of-9 shooting as he looked limited Tuesday in a 77-71 overtime win over Massachusetts.

Anson Winder picked up the slack with a career-high 25 points on a day when Haws' streak of scoring at least 10 points was snapped at 60 games.

"With Tyler hurting we all knew we needed to step up our game, not just me," Winder said.

BYU won despite shooting 39.0 percent. Kyle Collinsworth had 18 points and 15 boards, giving him three double-doubles and one triple-double in his last six games.

"This was a real team victory for us. Our guys, from top to bottom, battled in a game that was difficult for us to get into rhythm," coach Dave Rose said.

Gonzaga is not too far behind BYU in averaging 83.7 points and both teams rank among the nation's best in assists, with the Cougars averaging 18.2 and the Bulldogs 17.8.

Few's club is second in the nation in field-goal percentage at 53.6, though offense was an issue in last Saturday's 63-50 win over Cal Poly. Przemek Karnowski and Kevin Pangos each scored 16 points as the Bulldogs matched their lowest output of the season.

"We got caught in bad spots and (were) maybe too tentative, maybe too aggressive at bad times," Pangos said. "So we've got to learn from that but overall we did what we had to do."

Gonzaga has still won four straight by an average of 20.3 points since losing 66-63 in overtime to No. 3 Arizona on Dec. 6.

Haws averaged 19.7 points against the Bulldogs last season while Pangos averaged 16.0 for Gonzaga.

The Bulldogs are 4-2 in this series since the Cougars joined the conference in 2011-12. BYU is 20-5 at home in WCC play, winning its last nine.

"I think we can build on our last non-conference game as a team going into what's going to be quite an interesting and competitive conference season," Rose said. "I look forward to that on Saturday."

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