Gonzaga hasn’t been able to rely on long-range shooting as much as it did in past years. With forward Elias Harris developing so rapidly, the Bulldogs are gladly feeding the ball into the post more often.
Led by their fantastic freshman, the 13th-ranked Bulldogs look to extend a 27-game winning streak in West Coast Conference play and continue their dominance against struggling San Francisco on Saturday night.
Though it went 3 for 9 from 3-point range, Gonzaga (17-3, 6-0) rallied from a 14-point deficit in the second half to beat Santa Clara 71-64 on Thursday night. Seeking a 10th straight WCC regular-season title, the Bulldogs have won nine straight and are one game ahead of Saint Mary’s for the conference’s top spot.
Gonzaga continued its WCC winning streak with a gritty effort, outrebounding the Broncos 32-26. The Bulldogs’ nine attempts from 3-point range were their fewest since going 0 for 9 in a 69-62 loss to San Diego on March 10, 2008, in the WCC title game.
Gonzaga is shooting 24.0 percent (6 for 25) from beyond the arc over its last two games, and 36.1 percent this season. That would be the Bulldogs’ lowest mark since making 35.7 percent of their attempts in 1996-97.
“Sometimes you don’t need to try to make a play that has a 30 percent chance of working,” coach Mark Few said. “You make the simple plays.”
The Bulldogs are attempting an average of 15.5 3-pointers, 3.4 fewer than last season. Harris’ emergence has given the Zags good reason to pass up perimeter shots.
Harris gives the Bulldogs a physical, athletic presence inside, averaging 20.3 points and 10.6 rebounds over his last nine games. The 6-foot-7, 215-pound Harris is making 62.5 percent of his shots during that span.
Harris, 20, has experience on the German national team, so he’s much more mature than most freshmen. He has been a perfect complement to senior guard Matt Bouldin, who is averaging 16.5 points, 4.3 assists and 1.8 steals.
Bouldin is averaging 10.5 points and shooting 25.0 percent (4 for 16) from 3-point range in his last four games against San Francisco (7-14, 2-4), but the Bulldogs won all of those contests to extend their winning streak in the series to nine.
They have won 20 of 21 against the Dons and lead the series 39-20.
San Francisco doesn’t seem to be in any position to end its struggles versus the Zags. The Dons have a three-game losing streak after matching a season high with consecutive victories.
They committed 18 turnovers in a 74-58 loss to Portland on Thursday night.
Dior Lowhorn, who leads the Dons with 17.3 points per game, didn’t start after missing parts of two practices due to a scheduling conflict with one of his classes. The senior forward had 12 points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes.
Lowhorn has scored at least 20 in three of his four games against the Bulldogs. He led the WCC in scoring each of the past two seasons, averaging 20.3 points during that span, but sophomore guard Kwame Vaughn has gotten some of the opportunities that would have gone to Lowhorn in the past.
Vaughn averaged 16.8 points in seven games prior to being held to six on 2-of-6 shooting against Portland.