Gonzaga’s worst offensive performance has it on the brink of falling out of the Top 25. Scoring, though, hasn’t been a problem for the Bulldogs against Eastern Washington in recent years.
The 25th-ranked Bulldogs, coming off a deflating loss, look to win their 22nd straight game against the lowly Eagles on Monday night.
This is Gonzaga’s first game since losing 76-41 to then-No. 7 Duke on Dec. 19, and its spot in the rankings could be in jeopardy. Florida State, which was 19 votes behind the Bulldogs (8-3) in the poll this past week, had two wins since Gonzaga’s last contest, including a 66-59 overtime victory over then-No. 22 Georgia Tech on Dec. 20.
The Bulldogs return from an eight-day break hoping to get their offense back on track. Besides shooting 27.8 percent against Duke—the first time it was held below 35 percent in more than two years—Gonzaga was limited to its fewest points since a 62-40 loss to Iowa on Nov. 28, 1984.
“We have to put this one out of out minds fast,” coach Mark Few said. “This was an aberration. They have been great at stepping up to challenges all season.”
It was the Bulldogs’ largest margin of defeat since a 121-84 loss to Loyola Marymount on March 3, 1990.
Now they have three games over a six-day stretch, hosting Oklahoma on Thursday and visiting Illinois on Saturday.
“We have been going pretty hard since October,” Few said. “When we come back we have to ramp it up for three important games.”
The Bulldogs have an excellent opportunity to avoid a second straight loss. They have won 21 in a row against the Eagles (4-9) since a 70-55 road defeat Jan. 8, 1990.
Gonzaga is averaging 80.5 points and shooting 51.3 percent in its last 11 games versus Eastern Washington and leads the series 50-7. Prior to facing the Blue Devils, the Bulldogs were averaging 79.5 points and shooting 49.3 percent this season.
Senior guard Matt Bouldin leads Gonzaga with 15.5 points per game, but he has been held to four in each of his last two contests while going 2 for 10 from the field. He totaled 50 points in his previous two games.
Bouldin is shooting 46.9 percent from 3-point range at home, where Gonzaga has averaged 85.5 points en route to winning five of six contests.
Eastern Washington is 16 miles from Spokane, but the short trip isn’t likely to help. The Eagles have lost four straight, averaging 51.3 points and shooting 31.2 percent over their last three.
Eastern Washington lost 72-67 to previously winless Jackson State on Wednesday in the final round of the Las Vegas Classic.
“Right now it feels like early to mid-November when you don’t know exactly what your team is like yet,” coach Kirk Earlywine said. “That’s not a good feeling.”
Senior forward Mark Dunn is averaging a team-best 11.9 points for Eastern Washington but scored two on 1-for-5 shooting Wednesday. The Eagles are 0-6 when he fails to score in double figures.