Over the past few years, Gonzaga's trips to beautiful San Francisco have been anything but pleasant. In their past two trips to War Memorial Gymnasium, the Zags have been upset by the Dons. Both losses have been in gut-wrenching, overtime fashion. This evening, Gonzaga concludes its Bay Area road trip against the Dons and hopes to avenge the past few years. The Dons played Gonzaga tough earlier this year in Spokane and are not going to be intimidated by the name on the front of the jersey. USF enters the game with a 17-11 record but is still searching for a win against a quality member of the West Coast Conference. While they are 7-7 in conference, six of their seven losses have been to the top four clubs in the conference. This past Thursday, they looked to be on their way to their first quality conference win against BYU but the Cougars were able to rally late to squeak by the Dons.
After that heartbreaking loss to BYU, it goes without saying that USF is going to be very hungry. The Dons are lead by a couple of senior power forwards that seem to have been in college for 15 years. Angelo Caloiaro and Perris Blackwell are averaging 15 and 13 points per game, respectively and combine to be one of the few frontcourts in the conference that can cause problems for the Bulldogs.
Both Blackwell and Caloiaro have been playing very well as of late as they combined for 41 points in the Dons' loss to BYU. They are extremely talented scoring the basketball and their prowess around the rim makes up for the Dons overall lack of size in the paint. In their first game against Gonzaga, the Zags did a great job slowing down the Dons power forward duo. They only combined to score 21 points in Spokane on 6-13 shooting. If the Dons are going to secure their first big conference win of the season, they will need a more dominant performance from their star big men.
In that first matchup, Gonzaga fans got a taste of how good Guy Landry Edi can be. In his tenth game off suspension, Edi scored 15 points off the bench in 21 minutes. He was 5-6 from the floor and lifted the Zags to an 11 point victory.
Looking ahead to tonight's game, I think it is safe to say that whoever wins the frontcourt battle, wins the game. Elias Harris and Rob Sacre put up 14 points each last game against USF and if last game is any indicator, we can hopefully expect Sam Dower to contribute quite a bit tonight. Against Santa Clara on Thursday, Sam put up 18 points in an incredibly efficient 7-8 from the floor. Rob Sacre also scored 20 points to overpower the Broncos.
Overall, we have to expect this to be a tight contest as it is going to be an absolutely raucous environment at War Memorial Gym. They key tonight, as it usually is, will be the play of Robert Sacre. While USF can match up with the rest of the Zags frontcourt, Rob will have a distinct size advantage and must play with all of his seven feet. If he can come out and play well and set the tone, I think Gonzaga can put a good bit of separation between them and the Dons. If not, it will be a long and scary night for the Zags as they look to keep their regular season title hopes alive. In the end, I think Rob carries some momentum from last game into tonight and the Bulldogs get a much needed win in San Francisco by a score of 72-60