Bulldogs Striving For More As Another Goal Accomplished
By Matt Breach
Special to GoZags.com
SPOKANE, Wash. - Saturday's result was much more than another impressive win in what continues to be an extraordinary season, perhaps the greatest in Gonzaga basketball history. It was an unequivocal return to power.
With it, came a sought-after crown. That means things are finally back to normal in the West Coast Conference.
Third-ranked Gonzaga trounced San Diego 81-50 in front of a capacity crowd at the McCarthey Athletic Center. With the win, the Zags assured themselves of at least a share of the WCC championship. They can claim it outright by winning one of their two remaining games or with a Saint Mary's loss.
"It's something we really wanted to accomplish this year," said Kevin Pangos, who led GU with 18 points. "All the great Zag teams and players have done it."
Gonzaga has grabbed at least a share of the conference crown in 12 of the last 13 seasons. The Bulldogs' only miss during that span came last season, when Saint Mary's ended one of college basketball's longest streaks of supremacy.
"It was mission accomplished," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "That was what we wanted to do here in front of our home fans."
Few teams in any conference across the country can match Gonzaga's in-conference dominance. Only Kansas, which has claimed 10 out of the last 11 Big 12 titles, can boast of a similar stretch of success.
"It means a lot," Gonzaga senior Elias Harris said. "All the work you put in all year, that's how it pays off. We all deserve to be back on top and get our championship back."
Considering how the Bulldogs have ruled this conference in recent memory, last season's second-place finish was certainly a bitter result. But it has fueled this year's team. The Zags' average margin of victory over WCC foes this season has been a staggering 19.7 points per game.
Repositioning itself atop the WCC is hardly the only thing Gonzaga has accomplished. This season has been loaded with highlights and historical achievements. Consider:
● The Bulldogs have cruised to a remarkable 27-2 record. Never has a GU team won more regular-season games. The high-water mark for overall wins is 29, accomplished in the 2001-02 and 2005-06 seasons.
● The Zags are just two wins away from an undefeated run through conference. That's something that has happened only three times since Gonzaga began playing at the Division I level in 1958.
"I think it's the best season we've had since I've been here," Harris said. "Everything is clicking and team chemistry is tremendous. The way we play together just works out perfectly, and all of that together has led to such an amazing season so far."
● That, of course, means Gonzaga is in position to make its 15th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Only Kansas (23 years), Duke (17) and Michigan State (15) have longer active streaks.
So what else do the Bulldogs have left to prove? Plenty.
"We are always striving for more," Pangos said. "We are never really satisfied with what we've done. We enjoy it for a little bit and then it's on to the next win and bigger things."