GAME NOTES: The Gonzaga Bulldogs hope that the third time is the charm, as they once again set their sights on the West Coast Conference title, taking on the Pacific Tigers in a league showdown at the Spanos Center on Thursday evening.
Mark Few's Bulldogs had a shot at locking up yet another conference crown a couple of games ago, but consecutive losses at BYU (73-65) and San Diego (69-66) in the last week have delayed the celebration. With the loss to the Toreros last weekend, Gonzaga fell to 23-6 overall and 13-3 in conference play. Still, with a two-game lead and two to play, the Bulldogs can once again lock up the WCC with a win here.
The Tigers have long been out of the conference race and are currently saddled with a three-game losing streak, including Saturday's 64-59 road loss at San Francisco. With the setback, Pacific is now 14-13 overall and just 5-11 in- conference.
Gonzaga has won four of the previous five meetings with Pacific and is seeking the regular-season sweep after posting a rather easy 86-64 rout on Jan. 4 in Spokane.
The Bulldogs shot 50 percent from the floor and got a double-double from Sam Dower (18 points, 15 rebounds), but Gonzaga was outscored 23-6 at the free- throw line and ended up dropping a three-point decision at San Diego. Big man Przemek Karnowski added 17 points before fouling out, while Gary Bell Jr. finished with 11 in the loss.
Gonzaga has been an efficient squad all season long, averaging 77.5 ppg on just under 50 percent from the floor (.497). The 3-pointer has been a weapon as well, with the team shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc and averaging 7.5 treys per contest. Dower has been a force down low, converting 60 percent from the field and leading Gonzaga in both scoring (14.9 ppg) and rebounding (7.1 rpg). Kevin Pangos is a close second in scoring (14.7 ppg), fueled by a 41.2 percent effort from long range (73-of-177). Bell (11.3 ppg) and Karnowski (10.4 ppg) provide depth.
Pacific trailed by 12 points at the half against the Dons, but made a game of it, shooting 50 percent in the second half before dropping a six-point decision. Trevin Harris scored 13 of his team-high 15 points in the second half. Sama Taku added 14 points to the cause, but there was little support from the remainder of the roster.
A lack of consistency has plagued Pacific this season, as the team is averaging (73.7 ppg) almost as much it allows (72.2 ppg). Senior guard Andrew Bock leads the team in scoring but at a modest 11.5 ppg. Taku and Tony Gill aren't far behind at 11.3 ppg and 11.2 ppg, respectively.
The Bulldogs should finally be able to secure that conference title here. The Tigers were no match earlier in the season and shouldn't present much of a problem in this one.
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