After securing a share of a record 10th straight West Coast Conference regular-season crown, Gonzaga wants the title all to itself - along with some revenge.
The 18th-ranked Bulldogs can secure the outright crown Saturday night when they host San Francisco - the only WCC team they haven’t beaten this season.
Gonzaga (23-5, 11-2) clinched the top seed for the WCC tournament with an 88-51 rout of Santa Clara on Thursday. The 10 consecutive conference titles moved the Bulldogs into a tie with Connecticut (1951-60 Yankee Conference) and UNLV (1983-92 Big West) for the second-longest streak in NCAA history. UCLA is first with 13 straight Pac-10 titles from 1967-79.
“It shows what an amazing group of guys we’ve had come through here,” coach Mark Few said.
The Bulldogs, however, still have unpleasant memories of seeing their 27-game WCC win streak end with an 81-77 overtime loss at San Francisco (12-16, 7-6) on Jan. 30.
“We don’t want to share the title with anybody,” center Robert Sacre said. “We have to get back at San Francisco.”
Gonzaga will be heavily favored, having won 20 in a row at home over San Francisco since a 67-64 loss Feb. 10, 1989. The Bulldogs have won 21 straight WCC games in Spokane.
Few’s team got a breakout game from Steven Gray, who made 10 of 12 shots for 26 points Thursday. Gray averaged 10.7 points on 32.4 percent shooting in his previous seven games.
“It’s great to see him shoot the ball like he is capable of,” Few said.
Gray has struggled in both of Gonzaga’s conference losses, fouling out with eight points on 2-of-13 shooting in last month’s meeting with San Francisco. The Dons earned their first win over the Bulldogs in 10 tries.
San Francisco got a surprising performance from beyond the arc in that game from leading scorer Dior Lowhorn, who made a career-high five 3-pointers and scored 22 points. Lowhorn is shooting 28.8 percent on 3s.
Gonzaga had 10 assists and 16 turnovers and missed 11 of 33 free throws in the loss.
Foul shooting continues to be a problem for the Bulldogs, who rank last in the WCC at 66.0 percent. They made 13 of 26 against Santa Clara.
It didn’t matter because Gonzaga turned in its best defensive performance of the season in a conference game, limiting the Broncos to 34.0 percent shooting and leading by as many as 41.
This game has major ramifications for the Dons’ WCC tournament seed. San Francisco needs to win Saturday or have Loyola Marymount lose to Saint Mary’s in order to gain the No. 4 seed and a bye into the quarterfinals.
The Dons missed a chance to clinch the No. 4 seed when their three-game winning streak ended Thursday with a 70-59 loss at Portland. Lowhorn scored seven points after averaging 24.2 over his previous six games.