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Gonzaga vs. San Francisco: Zags shoot for a win that doesn't involve overtime

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs have a chance to continue their path to redemption with a game against the San Francisco Dons on Saturday night.

Last time the two teams met, for once this season, it was Gonzaga having to climb out of a deep second half hole. Domantas Sabonis dropped 35 points and Kyle WIltjer added 30 to help spur Gonzaga to a 102-94 victory in overtime.

Meet the opponent

San Francisco Dons, 11-9, KenPom #201


Things have been a bit tough for the San Francisco Dons in conference play. After pushing Gonzaga to overtime at the beginning of January, San Francisco has mustered wins against Pacific, Portland, San Diego and Santa Clara. But they have also dropped games to us, Saint Mary's, BYU, Pepperdine Loyola Marymount.

In each loss, the Dons get exposed by one of their worst qualities, namely, their defense. San Francisco's defense ranks No. 316 according to Ken Pomeroy, which pretty much means any time they face a team that can score somewhat efficiently, it is an uphill climb for the Dons.

On the offensive side, the Dons have a few capable scorers, led by Tim Derksen. If you remember, way back when, Derksen struggled with foul trouble against Gonzaga, but it still didn't stop him from having a huge impact in the second half. He only scored 12 points, but his ORtg that game was a monstrous 159. Gonzaga needs to keep an eye on Derksen, because he will burn you from the outside.

Then there is Devin Watson. The sophomore guard is one of the better scorers in the WCC, and he demonstrated it against Gonzaga. If it wasn't for Domantas Sabonis' 35 points in that game, Watson would have led all scorers with 33 points. Watson is a high volume shooter, and if he gets hot, he can be tough to stop. Outside of games against Saint Mary's and San Diego, Watson has scored at least 20 points in every WCC contest. The ball is always going into his hands, and the GU bigs need to be wary of when he enters the paint. Watson ends up at the free throw line quite often, and is second in the WCC with 107 free throw attempts.

Since conference play has started, San Francisco has apparently just adopted the mentality of running other teams off the court--to varying degrees of success. They average a conference best 83.1 points per game, but also give up a conference worst 84.4 points per game. Obviously, that math is not ending up in their favor.

What to watch out for

Zags need to slow this game down.

San Francisco will have a game plan to run Gonzaga out of Spokane. If I'm Rex Walters, that is what I'm going to stick with solely because my bench is much deeper than my opponents. In San Francisco, that almost worked, until the offensive execution quit. If Derksen and Watson can keep up enough outside pressure, things could be difficult for the Zags.

Yay for more Alberts and Edwards!

Both Bryan Alberts and Ryan Edwards pushed 10 minutes in the game against Santa Clara for porbably the first time in eternity. Alberts rewarded the move with three threes and an ORtg of 300 (!!!), while Edwards was no slouch and held his own down low. Their development, if there is any room for it on this squad, will be key going down the stretch. Much of the complaints about how Mark Few sticks with the same old lineup when everything is going wrong also stems from the fact that Mark Few doesn't have anyone to put in there. If Edwards and Alberts can get something going, anything, consistently, it will go a long way into giving a bit of freedom for his game. That way, when Perkins is hurling balls into the stands like he is Aaron Rodgers, Few can slide over E-Mac to point and bring in Alberts. Or if Wiltjer needs a rest, or if Domas has picked up his third foul five seconds after his second, Edwards can lumber on in.

This roster is definitely constricted, and Few needs to do a better job maximizing what he can out of it--and that starts with the bench. Rewarding Edwards and Alberts after their fine showings on Tuesday is the way to go.