Randy Bennett knows better than anyone how difficult it is to beat the top ranked Gonzaga.
The Saint Mary’s coach has faced the Bulldogs 52 times during his 20 years with the Gaels, going 11-41.
“You have to play an A-plus game,” Bennett said after a 73-59 loss to the top-ranked Zags on January 16 in Moraga, California. “And I hope they get a B less or a C.”
The teams are scheduled to meet Thursday night at a West Coast Conference game in Spokane, Washington, the first time that members of the Bulldogs family will be able to attend a home game at McCarthey Athletic Center. this season after COVID-19 restrictions were eased this week in eastern Washington.
“It’s going to be very big,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said after a 100-61 win in San Francisco on Saturday. “We’ve been trying and trying at Gonzaga to get that done. It’s taken a long time.”
Gonzaga (20-0, 11-0 WCC) is led by his three Player of the Year candidates: forward Corey Kispert, second-year forward / center Drew Timme and first-year guard Jalen Suggs.
Timme is averaging 19.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, the highest on the team, with Kispert close behind with 19.2 points. Suggs has 14.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.
Timme took over the team’s scoring lead with 28 points in just 22 minutes Saturday against the Dons, hitting 11 of 12 shots from the field.
“It felt good. It was fun,” Timme said. “The coach tells us to get out aggressive and not start slow. We jump on them early and we don’t take our feet off the gas.”
The Bulldogs finished a five-game road trip in San Francisco. Few said that returning home and playing in front of family members should be an encouragement.
“When you look at a guy like Corey, whose parents are sitting here in Washington state and the only place they could see him was when we were in Texas and Florida, it’s hard,” Few said. “I know Jalen recharges every time his family can watch, we’ll see if they can come. Drew’s family is fine traveling with us so I hope they can come in and see us.”
Gonzaga has already reached 20 wins for the 24th consecutive season and is approaching an undefeated regular season. Their closest conference game this season was last week at BYU, when they won 82-71.
“You have to generate some points against those guys because they’re going to score,” Bennett said of the Zags, whose 93.0-point average is the best in Division I of the NCAA.
The Gaelics (11-6, 2-4) have rested well. They had six straight games postponed due to coronavirus concerns and were out for three weeks before a 60-58 loss Saturday at Pepperdine.
Saint Mary’s rallied from a 14-point deficit with 7:35 remaining to tie the score with seven seconds left before the Waves’ Colbey Ross made two free throws with two seconds left.
“We haven’t finished the games,” Bennett said. “We’re going to have to learn to do that, but I think we’re going in the right direction. (The Zags) aren’t going to lose too many, if there are any.”
–Field level media
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.