Gonzaga didn’t have much time to dwell on its heart-breaking, overtime loss to one of the nation’s top-ranked teams.
It’s had plenty of time to look back on the defeat that followed.
After having eight days off to dwell on a rare home loss, the No. 16 Bulldogs will try to avoid just their second three-game losing streak in eight seasons on Wednesday when they play Utah in Salt Lake City for the first time in 46 years.
Gonzaga (8-3) was riding high in mid-December, off to a 7-0 start that included a win over then-No. 12 Tennessee in the championship game of the Old Spice Classic.
But the Bulldogs were tripped up against Arizona on Dec. 14, and after a blowout win over Texas Southern, faced their toughest test of the season Dec. 20 in Seattle. That’s where they blew a late lead against No. 2 Connecticut and lost 88-83 in overtime.
Gonzaga figured to have an easier time three days later, hosting a Portland State team to which it hadn’t lost in more than 30 years. Yet, the Bulldogs were burned by 12 Vikings 3-pointers on Dec. 23 in a 77-70 loss, just their third in 58 games in the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“We got what we deserve,” coach Mark Few said. “They outhustled us, outrebounded us and outplayed us.
“The guys didn’t take it seriously enough. And our confidence got knocked back a bit after the UConn game.”
The Bulldogs haven’t lost three in a row since dropping four straight from Dec. 16, 2006-Jan. 3, 2007, and hadn’t dropped three consecutive games before that since 2000.
Gonzaga has been outrebounded in its past two games, something that happened only once through its first nine contests—against Tennessee. Leading rebounders Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt grabbed 17 total against Portland State, but the rest of the Bulldogs combined for 13 while the Vikings had 39.
“We got manhandled by guys smaller than us,” Few said.
One positive for the Bulldogs is that junior Matt Bouldin, who led the team in 3-point attempts last year, seems to be coming around. He shot 31.8 percent from beyond the arc in the Bulldogs’ first seven games, but has oddly turned it around as they’ve lost three of four, hitting 7-of-13 (53.8 percent).
Utah (7-5) has won two of three since a three-game losing streak, capped by a season-low 34.0 percent shooting performance in a 70-52 defeat at then-No. 5 Oklahoma on Dec. 13. The Utes won 60-52 at UC-Irvine on Saturday, as they were paced by 18 points from guard Lawrence Borha.
Utah isn’t among the top 200 teams in the nation in rebounding, grabbing 34.3 per game, but Gonzaga will have to deal with 7-foot-2 senior center Luke Nevill in the paint. Nevill is second in the Mountain West with 8.3 rebounds per game, and he’s averaging 10.5 in his last two games.
Nevill is also Utah’s leading scorer, averaging 16.9 points. He had 15 points and eight rebounds against Gonzaga in Spokane on Dec. 31, 2007, exactly one year before this season’s meeting.
But Bouldin scored 26 and hit 6-of-8 3-pointers as the Bulldogs won 61-59.
Gonzaga also won a neutral-site meeting in 2002. Prior to that, the teams hadn’t played since a Utah victory in Salt Lake City in 1962.