Gonzaga-San Francisco Preview

MATT BEARDMORE
The Associated Press

Gonzaga still has a chance of winning a share of its 12th consecutive West Coast Conference title.

A third straight loss to visiting San Francisco could prevent that from happening.

The 24th-ranked Bulldogs go for their fifth consecutive victory on Saturday night at War Memorial Gymnasium, where the Dons continue a rough stretch of their schedule.

Second in Division I history with 11 straight regular-season conference titles, the Bulldogs (21-4, 11-2) remain in the hunt for No. 12 following Thursday's 73-62 victory at Santa Clara.

The Zags have sole possession of second place in the league behind No. 21 Saint Mary's (12-2), which has split its last two games since its 11-0 run to open conference play was snapped by Gonzaga on Feb. 9 with a 73-59 loss.

The Bulldogs were routed 83-62 at Saint Mary's on Jan. 12.

"We're not really trying to focus on (winning conference),'' center Robert Sacre said Thursday after leading Gonzaga with 20 points in Thursday's 73-62 road win over Santa Clara. "The reality is we can't overlook all those teams (left to play). We have to stay focused and stay grinding.''

The Zags, who close out conference play against BYU and San Diego, have won 25 of 28 meetings with San Francisco following a 74-63 victory in Spokane on Jan. 19. However, the Dons (17-7, 7-7) have won the last two times these teams have met in the Bay Area - both past regulation.

San Francisco could have a hard time extending that run if it doesn't improve on the defensive end. Coach Rex Walters' team nearly upset BYU on Thursday, but the Cougars shot 53.7 percent in their 85-84 victory.

"It's not rocket science - we've got to guard the ball better, be better in transition defense" said Walters, whose team had won five of six following the Gonzaga loss. "We had a lot of unforced turnovers - we do those things better, we'll have a better chance of beating Gonzaga and Saint Mary's (in the regular-season finale on Feb. 25)."

The Dons could also have a better chance of snapping a three-game skid to ranked teams - their last such victory was 81-77 in OT at home Jan. 30, 2010, over then-No. 13 Gonzaga - if Angelo Caloiaro keeps scoring.

The senior forward - fifth in the WCC with 15.0 points per game - is averaging 19.0 on 60.0 percent from the field over the last three games. Caloiaro had team highs with 14 points and nine rebounds last month versus Gonzaga.

Guy Landry Edi led the Zags with 15 points off the bench in that contest. Sacre and Elias Harris added 14, while freshman guard Kevin Pangos scored 12 with a team-high seven rebounds.

Dons guard Cody Doolin had a career-high 23 points in a 96-91 overtime home win over Gonzaga on Jan. 22, 2011.

The Bulldogs lead the series 44-21.