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Gonzaga vs. Pacific game preview: The Tigers come to Spokane

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Pacific is still looking for its first conference win.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Pacific Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs look to continue their winning streak with a game against the Pacific Tigers on Thursday evening.

The Zags opened WCC play with a win over the Santa Clara Broncos, which finally featured the entire team at full strength. Killian Tillie was limited by foul trouble and played just nine minutes, but Geno Crandall added 15 minutes as well.

Pacific is still looking for its first conference win. The Tigers narrowly missed the upset against BYU to open WCC play, and fell to San Diego on the road on Saturday.

Meet the opponent

Pacific Tigers, 10-7, KenPom #166

Head coach Damon Stoudamire has done a fantastic job turning the Tigers around in a short three years. Pacific isn’t quite there yet, but they have three capable scorers in Roberto Gallinat, Lafayette Dorsey, and Jahlil Tripp. Stoudamire hasn’t been afraid to mix up his starting rotation as he looks for what works. Nine different players have started games for the Tigers this season.

The Tigers play quite a bit like Stoudamire did in his NBA days. Pacific’s players goal is to draw contact at the hoop, and they do it better than most teams in the nation. The Tigers have shot the third-most free throws in the nation, and as a team, shoot 76.9 percent from the charity stripe, good for No. 17 in the nation. Gallinat is especially talented at this—he draws 8.7 fouls per 40 minutes, the third-highest rate in the nation.

Don’t expect a pretty game here. Pacific garners 25.9 percent of its total points from the free throw line, second-highest total in the nation. Pacific doesn’t have the offense or the defense to compete with the Zags, but if they foul everyone out? Then we have a different story.

What to watch out for

This is going to be a frustrating game.

Credit to Stoudamire for trying something and seeing if it works, but we are in for an ugly game. BYU was called for 31 fouls against Pacific, San Diego just 20. On average, Pacific opponents are called for around 22 fouls per game. For context, the Zags commit roughly 17.5 fouls per game. Pacific’s only route to a win here is for the Gonzaga offense to die on the court and everyone to foul out. It probably won’t happen, but we’ll have to watch the attempt anyway.

Yay Killian and Geno.

The Zags are finally up to where we want them, almost. Tillie, especially, still needs to ease into the lineup, but it will be interesting to continue to see how the frontcourt operates, now that it went from one of the most dangerous in the nation to the definitively best in the nation.