Baylor-Gonzaga Preview

The Associated Press

Gonzaga was pleased to make it through the first stretch of its season with just one defeat.

Avoiding a second loss before West Coast Conference play begins next week would also be an accomplishment.

The 13th-ranked Bulldogs will try to match their best start in 46 years Friday night while Baylor goes for its second-ever road win over a ranked non-conference opponent.

Gonzaga (11-1) takes the court for the first time since a 74-52 victory over Campbell on Dec. 19. Led by 11 points and a career-high six assists from senior forward Elias Harris, the Bulldogs won their second straight since an 85-74 loss to then-No. 13 Illinois on Dec. 8 that ended their 17-game winning streak at McCarthey Athletic Center.

"It's extremely nice to go home for a little bit, rest, refocus and be back (for practice) on the 25th,'' said Harris, the team's leader with 15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. "I'm absolutely happy. I wish we could be 12-0 but against Illinois we didn't play our best, we didn't play smart and that's what we get. We can be happy where we're at but not satisfied.''

Coach Mark Few, though, has been satisfied with how his team has clamped down on the defensive end since surrendering 50 percent shooting in its lone loss. The Bulldogs held Kansas State and Campbell to a combined 33.0 percent shooting while totaling 19 steals and nine blocks.

"Good job by the guys getting us to the break with only one loss with such a daunting schedule," Few said.

The Bulldogs, who could match the start by the 1966-67 team, will face Baylor (8-3) and 22nd-ranked Oklahoma State in Stillwater on New Year's Eve before league play begins Thursday at Pepperdine.

The Bears, meanwhile, arrive in Spokane on a season high-tying three-game winning streak. Pierre Jackson, the Big 12 scoring leader with 19.0 points per game, had 16 points and dished out nine assists as all five starters reached double figures in last Friday's 79-64 victory over BYU.

"We played one of our (best), if not our best, team games," coach Scott Drew said. "Everybody that came in contributed."

That's exactly what happened in a 64-55 victory over then-No. 8 Kentucky on Dec. 1 - the Bears' first road win over a non-conference Top 25 team in program history - when all five starters scored at least 10 points.

Guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. will try to help Gonzaga avoid a similar result by slowing down Jackson, Brady Heslip and A.J. Walton.

Harris, Sam Dower, 7-footer Kelly Olynyk and 7-foot-1 freshman Przemek Karnowski have helped Gonzaga outrebound its opponents by 10.7 per game - one of the nation's 10 best margins - but they could face one of their biggest tests of the season.

Baylor big men Cory Jefferson and freshman 7-footer Isaiah Austin are averaging a combined 29.7 points, 22.3 boards and 4.0 blocks during this winning streak.

Gonzaga is 3-0 in this series after posting a 68-64 victory over No. 9 Baylor in their last matchup Dec. 18, 2010, in Dallas.

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