This afternoon the Gonzaga Bulldogs will play the 10-18, 2-wins-in-their-last-10, Pacific Tigers in what is built up to be just as nerve racking as one of those cable action movies that you fall asleep during, which will no doubt be on about the same time as the game in the Mac.
One would suppose that the Tigers are one of those sleeping threats, being the only team credited for leading the Zags in the second half this WCC season. Pacific ran St. Mary’s to the wire a couple weeks back in a 74-70 loss. Since then, they played .500, with double digit losses to Pepperdine (82-72) and Santa Clara (64-47) offset by wins against San Diego (61-58) and Portland (76-65).
That New Year’s Day game that saw Pacific leading at half and as late as the 11:39 mark in the second half mirrored a lot of what we saw Thursday night against San Francisco, where when push came to shove the Zags just found their next gear. The final 11-plus minutes on January 1st consisted of Gonzaga’s perimeter shooting boat racing the Tigers to the final buzzer.
Which, ultimately, makes those sleeping threats in the more stagnant parts of the regular season far more manageable. This Zags team is a squad that is capable of atoning for uninspired halves or stretches in a matter of minutes.
Meet the opponent
Pacific Tigers, 10-18 (4-11), KenPom #257
If there ever was a game for the Zags to pad their opponent field goal shooting percentage (37.1%), it would be today’s game. Pacific is the 20th worst shooting team in the country, shooting 40.2%. Those misses do lead to rebounds, where Pacific averages 38 a game.
Sophomore forward Anthony Townes is coming off of a 16 rebound and 18 point performance against the Pilots. The Tigers played without their senior guard TJ Wallace, who injured his shooting hand back in the January 26 game against Loyola Marymount. Wallace has been averaging over 30 minutes a game and is alone with junior forward Ray Bowles in averaging double digit points per game.
What to watch out for
How bad is a fracture? What does the front court rotation look like from here?
Killian Tillie is now out indefinitely with a broken hand. It’s unclear if Tillie will be back by the NCAA tournament, let alone the WCC tournament. Regardless, it will be interesting to see what Few and the staff do with this front court.
ESPN pundit Seth Greenberg recently said that looking at the rotation, a potential weak spot could be the Zags facing one of those dynamic small forwards who have a complete offensive skill set. Tillie was a possible candidate for that awkward task, even though he’d never played outside of the power forward spot. Without Tillie it’s unknown where the coaches will look for length from their front court options.
Could it be Rui Hachimura? The tape-measure-anomaly only saw 4 minutes against the Dons. It’s hard to imagine the staff would want to disrupt the play of Jonathan Williams as he’s been a boon for the post and the four spot in general.
Coach Tommy Lloyd has said half-jokingly in pregame shows that the four guy rotation has almost been more difficult to manage than if it were a three man rotation at times. But it’s obvious that everyone would rest a little bit easier if they had an answer for if/when Zach Collins picks up those freshman fouls.
It becomes a major teaching priority as the Zags look ahead to the often unpredictable officiating in the tournament. “Next guy up” becomes difficult when you run out of guys.
Just stay healthy
As the Zags continue with these double digit wins throughout WCC play, the game within the game has been crossing fingers and holding your breath while you wait for the handshake lines. There have been almost countless times where guys have come up gimpy, especially now that we’re seeing a light at the end of this 30 game tunnel.
Nigel Williams-Goss is the only Bulldog to average over 30 minutes per game, and you absolutely do not want to see your unparalleled season erased by an injury in one of these inconsequential games. With Bryan Alberts resting a bad ankle sprain, it will be noteworthy to see how much Few plays certain guys in these next couple of games.
Time: 1:00 PM PT
TV: KHQ/Root Sports
Radio: Gonzaga IMG Radio Network (Tom Hudson and Matt Santangelo)
Online: TheW.tv (out of region)