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Key matchup: Saint Mary's guard Augustas Marciulionis has caught Gonzaga's attention with recent spurt

Feb. 2—It's not the first time a Lithuania native with rich basketball bloodlines has shown up near the top of a Gonzaga-Saint Mary's scouting report.

From 2014-16, Randy Bennett and the Gaels couldn't get through a game plan for the Zags without a few Domantas Sabonis-inflicted headaches, let alone those that occurred within the games themselves.

Eight years later, Saint Mary's guard Augustas Marciulionis is starting to draw some of the same attention from Mark Few and Gonzaga as the Bulldogs prepare for a critical West Coast Conference home matchup Saturday .

Sabonis' father, Arvydas, and Marciulionis' father, Sarunas, are both NBA Hall of Famers who teamed up to help Lithuania capture bronze medals at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.

Now playing roughly 20 miles from where his father spent four years of his NBA career with the Golden State Warriors, Marciulionis has keyed a midseason turnaround for a Saint Mary's team that had a .500 record after 10 games.

The junior guard and first-year starter is coming off a pair of 20-point games — a 20-point outing against Santa Clara on Wednesday and a 25-point effort against Loyola Marymount on Saturday — and enters the first of two regular-season games against Gonzaga averaging 11.9 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists.

Marciulionis, who's posted double-digit assists in two WCC games, is one of two players in the conference averaging at least six assists in conference play, along with Gonzaga adversary Ryan Nembhard.

"Marciulionis is doing great, he's playing great," Few said.

Unlike backcourt mate Aidan Mahaney, who was featured in this space last season, Marciulionis won't put too much pressure on Gonzaga from the 3-point line.

The junior guard has only made seven 3s during WCC play, but he's unlikely to pass up chance to attack the rim and has a knack for drawing contact, averaging five free-throw attempts per game.

Marciulionis' recent scoring spurt, which comes on the heels a four-game stretch in which he scored 32 combined points, could make Saturday's matchup a tricky one for Gonzaga. The Bulldogs may choose to stick their top perimeter defender, Nolan Hickman, on Mahaney — SMC's top scorer at 14.1 ppg — but that could leave them at a size disadvantage with the 6-foot Nembhard guarding the 6-4 Marciulionis.

Dusty Stromer is another solid defensive option off Few's bench and Gonzaga could lean on Anton Watson's versatility to help the Bulldogs contain the Gaels' duo if things start to get hairy.

"They're real solid. They're real good at what they do," Hickman said. "They're real tough, tough-minded, tough-based. I just think if we play solid like we did (against LMU) and solid on defense, I think we should be real solid."