San Diego-Gonzaga Preview
Gonzaga ranks among the West Coast Conference leaders in most offensive categories, though that would be meaningless unless it can get stops at the other end.
That'll be the focus as the Bulldogs look to recover from a rare league defeat in Spokane on Saturday night and continue their dominance against visiting San Diego.
Although it has gotten used to running over WCC opponents in recent seasons behind a superior size advantage, No. 25 Gonzaga (13-4, 5-1) has grown a bit thin on the interior since 7-foot-1 center Przemek Karnowski went down for the season with a back injury.
That was apparent Thursday when Domantas Sabonis battled foul trouble and finished with just five points and six rebounds in a 69-68 home loss to BYU. The 6-11 forward had averaged 24.7 points and 12.2 boards over his previous six games.
The Bulldogs held the Cougars to 3 of 17 from 3-point range but couldn't stop them in the lane. BYU owned a 40-20 scoring advantage in the paint and a 41-39 edge on the glass after Gonzaga came in tied for 18th nationally with a plus-8.9 rebounding margin.
The Bulldogs also shot a season-low 36.8 percent after they had averaged 88.9 points while hitting at a 51.8 clip over a seven-game winning streak. It added up to only Gonzaga's second loss in its past 41 home games against league opponents.
"You gotta put this one aside ... and come back with crazy aggression and crazy hunger," coach Mark Few, whose club also lost to BYU in Spokane last February, told the team's official website.
Kyle Wiltjer, the WCC's leading scorer at 21.5 per game, finished with a season-high 35 points and 10 rebounds but missed a free throw with eight seconds left that would have tied the game.
"It was really disappointing," said Wiltjer, who along with Sabonis is averaging over 34 minutes because of Karnowski's injury. "We really couldn't get stops late in the game."
The senior forward will try to stay on a roll after shooting 54.5 percent with 11 3-pointers while scoring 30 or more in a career-high three consecutive contests. He had 15 points in a 60-48 win at San Diego on Dec. 29, 2014, but had only five in a 59-39 home win Feb. 26.
Gonzaga has won 29 of the past 30 meetings with the Toreros, including 15 in a row at home by an average of 17.8 points dating to San Diego's 82-70 victory Feb. 17, 2000.
The Bulldogs will have to keep a watch on Duda Sanadze, who had a career-high 29 points Thursday as Toreros snapped a four-game skid with a 82-71 win at Portland. The senior guard is averaging 13.1 points but totaled 14 on 6-of-17 shooting in last season's series.
San Diego (6-10, 1-4) might not be able to test Gonzaga inside since 6-foot-9 Jito Kok is the team's tallest starter. The senior center, who leads the conference with 2.8 blocks per game, had 17 points and seven boards Thursday to help the Toreros hold a 38-25 edge on the glass.
San Diego, though, ranks seventh in the WCC with a minus-1.2 rebounding margin.
The Toreros have dropped 13 of their last 14 versus ranked opponents, though that lone victory was a 69-66 win at home over then-No. 25 Gonzaga on Feb. 22, 2014.