No. 3/2 Zags Aim for Outright WCC Title at Saint Mary's
No. 3/2 Gonzaga hits the road to Saint Mary's with an outright WCC title on their minds, facing the Gaels at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
3/2 Gonzaga (27-1, 15-0) vs. Saint Mary’s (20-6, 12-3)Satuday, Feb. 21, 2015 | 7 p.m. (PT) | McKeon Pavilion (3,500) | Moraga, Calif.TV:
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- Last time out: Kyle Wiltjer went off for 45 points on 15-22 shooting, including seven threes, as part of an 86-74 win at Pacific. Gary Bell Jr. added 12 points and the Zags shot 60.0 percent for the game and made 10-of-18 three pointers.
- The win also clinched at least a share of the Gonzaga’s 14th WCC title in last 15 years.
- GU earned its second 15-0 start to WCC play under head coach Mark Few, and will be looking for its second 16-0 start.
- Gonzaga has won 20 straight games overall, tying the school record at GU, which was done twice -- 2003-04 and 2005-06.
- Gonzaga has also won 20 straight games over WCC opponents dating back to last season.
- Gonzaga is one of two teams in NCAA in the top 20 of both FG% offense and FG% defense.
- Head coach Mark Few enters the game with a career record of 430-101, the NCAA all-time leader in winning percentage at .810.
- Gonzaga’s balanced scoring attack is led by Kyle Wiltjer’s 17.4 points per game. He’s among six Zags that average at least 8.1 ppg.
- Gonzaga is ranked No. 1 in field goal shooting in the nation at .529.
- The Zags rank No. 5 in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.56), No. 11 in assists/game (16.9) and No. 11 in scoring offense (80.0).
- The Zags are also 17th in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.383).
ABOUT SAINT MARY’S
- Head coach Randy Bennett is in his 14th season with a 303-141 (.682) career record at SMC.
- The Gaels are led by senior forward Brad Waldow, who averages19.7 points (2nd in WCC) and 9.1 rebounds per game (1st in WCC).
- Stanford transfer Aaron Bright (10.8 ppg, 3.8 apg) and Washington transfer Desmond Simmons (5.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg) have bolstered Saint Mary’s this season.
- Guard Kerry Carter is second on the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game.
- The Gaels hold a +7.2 rebounding edge per game against opponenets.
ABOUT THE SERIES
- Gonzaga is 61-27 all-time against Saint Mary’s and has won seven games in a row and 9 of 12.
- GU swept SMC in three meetings last season and beat them 68-47 earlier this year at home.
Againt Pacific on Thursday, Kyle Wiltjer put together the best Zag scoring game in more than five decades with his 45-point effort. He knocked down 15-of-22 from the field, including 7-of-10 from behind the arc. His 45 points was the third-best in school history, and most since Frank Burgess scored a school-record 52 in 1961. It also topped Adam Morrison’s 44-point night against LMU on Feb. 18, 2006.
With the win over Pacific Thursday, Gonzaga wrapped up at least a share of its 14th West Coast Conference regular season title in the last 15 seasons. It’s the 18 regular season title overall for the Zags. GU is three games up with three games to play and can clinch the title ouright with a win at Saint Mary’s.
MOST WINS EVER
Gonzaga’s four-year senior duo of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. are rewriting the records books with each victory. Against Pepperdine, the pair became the winningest senior class in program history with a 114-18 record, besting last season’s senior class win total of 112.
It’s been the veteran experience of Kyle Wiltjer, Kevin Pangos and Byron Wesley that have carried the Zags on the road. All three are averaging higher point totals away from Spokane. Wiltjer’s split is the biggest at 20.5 points per game on the road and 14.8 ppg at home. Pangos has averaged 11.9 ppg and 5.8 assists per game on the road and 11.1 ppg and 4.5 apg at home. Wesley is at 12.3 ppg on the road and 9.7 ppg at home.
As a team, Gonzaga has been one of the best in the country at making the extra pass. So far this season, the Zags have gotten an assists on 58% of their made baskets. Comparatively, Zag opponents have gotten assists on only 46% of their field goals.
WILTJER’S CRAFTY OFFENSE
On a team as balanced as Gonzaga is offensively, junior Kyle Wiltjer has been the unrivaled scoring leader with his variety of offensive skills. He’s shooting 55% from the field, 46% from behind the arc and 81% from the free throw line, while averaging a team-best 17.4 points per game. Over the last five games, he’s been even better, averaging 26.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and shooting 59.7% overall and 57.1% from behind the arc. More on Wiltjer’s scoring habits:
- Led team in scoring 13 times
- Team-high 23 double-figure games
- Team-high 11 20-plus games
- Single-game team season-high of 45 points (at Pacific)
- Scored 20-plus in three straight games on two seperate occasions
- Has current streak of eight straight double-figure games
Senior point guard Kevin Pangos has played more minutes than anyone at GU in the last four years and has been in the starting lineup in every game except one - the first one. Pangos came off the bench in his first career game as a freshman and has started every game since. That’s 132 games played and 131 starts.
PANGOS OVER 1,700
With nine points against Pepperdine, Kevin Pangos became just the 7th GU player ever to surpass 1,700 points in his career. He’s now at 1,719 for his career and in sole possession of seventh all-time, just four behind Ronny Turiaf for sixth.
LATE SEASON WATCH LISTS
The John Wooden Award Watch List Late Season Top 20 and Naismith Top 30 list were released last week and included Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos and Kyle Wiltjer. Pangos was on the original Wooden Top 50, but Wiltjer was an addition in the unveiling of the Top 25. With those two, Gonzaga is one of three schools (Louisville, Duke) to have multiple players on the Wooden list.
- Nation’s longest current home court win streak - 40 games
- Nation’s second-longest current road win streak - 9 games
- Nation’s second-longest current conference win streak - 20 games
- Nation’s third-longest current overall win streak - 20 games (tied school record)
- West Coast Conference home win streak - 35 games
OFFENSE AND DEFENSE
Gonzaga is one of only two teams in the nation to rank in the top 20 in field goal percentage offense and field goal percentage defense. The Zags have the nation-leading mark on the offensive side at 52.9 percent and rank 17th on the defensive side, holding teams a paltry 38.3 FG percentage. SMU is 14th in field goal percentage and 10th in field goal percentage defense.
THE NATION’S BEST
When it comes to putting the ball in the basket, no team in the nation has done it at a higher rate this season than Gonzaga. The Zags have an NCAA best .529 field goal percentage thanks in large part to its big men. Freshman forward Domantas Sabonis leads the team at .688 and junior center Przemek Karnowski is shooting .620.
PANGOS LIGHTING UP THE LEAGUE
In 15 West Coast Conference games, Kevin Pangos has been about as good as it gets. He’s averaging 12.9 points and 4.9 assists per game. Not to mention, he’s shooting .513 (40-78) from behind the arc. He has 74 total assists in those 14 league games against just 21 turnovers, a 3.52:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
OPPONENT COMPARISON NOTES - Through 28 games
- More assists than its opponent 25 times
- More rebounds than its opponent 25 times
- More or equal blocks with opponent 25 times
- More or equal steals with opponent 15 times
- Less or equal turnovers with its opponent 18 times
- A higher or equal field goal percentage 26 times
- More or equal 3FGM with its opponent 22 times
- Shot more or equal number of FT attempts 17 times