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Gonzaga vs. San Francisco game preview: Zags get first road contest (with all the students back)

Time for the first true true road game of the season.

NCAA Basketball: San Francisco at San Diego State Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

The first of the few potentially hard conference games for the Gonzaga Bulldogs is on the slate tonight as they head into sunny San Francisco to take on the Dons.

The Zags are coming off of victories over Pepperdine and Pacific. The Pacific game was hardly as easy as the final spread makes it look, as the Zags had to battle back from a halftime deficit to run away with the victory.

The Dons opened up conference play with a tidy win over San Diego, but got absolutely leveled by Santa Clara in their last game. It has been a few years, but if there was any arena not inhabited by BYU or Saint Mary’s that has given the Zags trouble in the past decade, it would be the War Memorial Gymnasium.

Meet the opponent

San Francisco Dons, 11-4, Ken Pom #163

The Dons are actually one of the surprise stories coming out of the non-conference schedule, going 10-3. Granted, a lot of that came from not the best competition, but they still own nice wins over Utah and Illinois State. San Francisco, when they are hot, are a team whose offense can hang with the best of them.

Ronnie Boyce III leads San Francisco to the tune of 16 points per game. He is joined by Charles Minland at 11.3 and Chase Foster at 10.9 points per game. Everyone’s favorite named player, Frankie Ferrari, averages six points per game.

A large majority of the Dons offense comes from the three point line. San Francisco has attempted the 30th-most three point attempts in the country, and they hit more than their fair share. San Francisco ranks No. 17 in the country in three point percentage at 40.1 percent. That ups their eFG% to 56.6, good for No. 16 in the country.

What to watch out for

What breaks first, San Francisco’s three point onslaught or Gonzaga’s three point defense?

So great, the Dons can shoot the three. Well guess what, the Zags can guard the three. The Zags are holding opponents to nearly 25 percent from the three point line, and Gonzaga will by far be the stingiest defense San Francisco has seen so far. At the same time, San Francisco is one of the better long distance shooting teams the Zags have faced. One of the two is going to have to break, and hopefully it will be San Francisco.

Don’t get fazed by the crowd.

This will be Gonzaga’s first true true road game. Prior to Pacific, the Zags hadn’t played a true road game. But still, as of today, the Zags haven’t played a true true road game where the students aren’t gone for winter break. The San Francisco game always draws a good contingent of Bay Area Zag fans, but the students at San Francisco can pack it in as well.

The Zags have more or less played in cozy situations all season, perhaps excluding the game against Florida in Orlando. This is as good of a test for the Zags as any school in the league.

Start out hot for once.

In both of their conference games this season, the Zags have started out a little rusty around the edges. Against Pepperdine, it was easy to write that off as a byproduct of the holiday break. Pacific though...that was a different story. In both instances, the Zags have played flat offense and uninspired defense. Then, they storm out of the second half and never look back.

A trend isn’t made in two games, but it is something the Zags need to avoid in the future. Good teams punish squads that get apathetic on the court, and the Zags have looked a bit sleepy to start their past two games.

Game info

  • Time: 6:00 pm PT
  • TV: ESPN2 (Eric Rothman and Adrian Branch)
  • Radio: Gonzaga IMG Network (Tom Hudson and Matt Santangelo)
  • Online: WatchESPN