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Gonzaga vs. San Diego game preview: Zags face the toughest D in the WCC

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San Diego has excelled at bringing down the point total. Can Gonzaga respond?

NCAA Basketball: San Francisco at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs face off with two opponents they haven’t seen all year this week: San Diego and BYU.

The Zags are coming off a rather easy win over Portland and a not-as-easy win over San Francisco last week. Five players scored in double figures against San Francisco, but the game wasn’t really decided until well into the second half. Hopefully, against San Diego, the Zags have a better effort.

San Diego’s potentially promising WCC campaign is a bit less than that when you consider they have lost to three of the four teams above them in the rankings...and Portland. Still, the Toreros are riding a two-game win streak and bringing a bit of momentum into Spokane.

Meet the opponent

San Diego Toreros, 15-7, KenPom #120

There is one huge thing to keep in mind with San Diego—they are one of the best defensive teams in the conference. San Diego holds opponents to just 28 percent from three point range (No. 2 in the country) and 44.5 percent from inside the arc (No. 21 in the country). That combines to opponent’s shooting a meager 43.8 eFG% (No. 6 in the country).

The perimeter defense is legitimate, and it will be the biggest thorn in Gonzaga’s side. Three pointers only make up 20.6 percent of San Diego’s opponents’ total points. For reference, 34.4 percent of the Zags’ total points come from three pointers this season.

The offense is led by a couple of transfers named Isaiah. Isaiah Pinero, who transferred from Portland State, leads the Dons with 15.9 points per game. He is followed by Isaiah Wright, who transferred from Utah, with 14.6 points and 5.5 assists per game. These two players, for the most part, are going to perform regardless. In the Toreros four conference losses this season, both Isaiah’s have still been readily involved. WCC stalwart Olin Carter III is always liable for blowing up in any given night—he averages nearly seven three point attempts per game.

What to watch out for

Does the defense win out, or can the Zags push through?

San Diego has a stellar defense, and this year has another couple of athletes in the Isaiah’s to make it all work. Lamont Smith is on to something, albeit, not the prettiest brand of basketball. Unfortunately for San Diego, the Zags run with one of the best offenses in the country. The Toreros couldn’t really slow down Saint Mary’s in the interior at all, and they kept that game close by shutting down the outside shot. If Gonzaga, specifically Josh Perkins, are able to hit the threes they normally do, San Diego won’t have a chance. If the Toreros can shut down the Zags from afar, they will be able to stay in this game.

Do not allow the Toreros to crash the boards.

Generally speaking, San Diego is a horrible offensive rebounding team. It isn’t really a priority for their gameplan. The Toreros’ OR% is ranked No. 318 in the nation. This is a no brainer, but the Zags have the athleticism and the height to dominate the offensive glass. The Zags need to clean up on defensive rebounding and not let San Diego get the extra possessions.

Hopefully the refs brought their whistles.

San Diego has a couple of players, specifically the two Isaiah’s, who excel at drawing contact. San Diego has a FTA/FGA ratio of 41.4, 17th highest in the nation. The Zags sit at a much more normal 31.7. The biggest issue, however, is San Diego also makes a lot of fouls. In the conference, their opponents commit the most against San Diego, and San Diego gives it right back, committing the second most. This game will not be for the faint of heart. It is going to be an ugly, long, and drawn out affair. Better hunker down with an extra beverage for this one.