The Gonzaga Bulldogs head down to the Bay Area to enjoy some warmer weather and finish off the regular season. Before a showdown with the Gaels in Moraga, they travel to Stockton on Thursday to take on the reeling Pacific Tigers. The two teams met at the beginning of conference season with the Zags winning, 67-36.
In that first meeting, Pacific took the air out of the ball. They ran dummy dribble weave action for 20 seconds before running one of a few late-clock set plays. Frankly, it was a disaster to watch. The Tigers scored five points in the final 12 minutes of the first half. Because of the snails pace, they held Gonzaga to a season-low 67 points, thanks to a 6-for-24 performance from deep.
It’s hard to imagine there’s something Pacific can do to steal a win in Stockton. If they do, Roberto Gallinat is going to have to repeat what he did against LMU. He’s coming off a 31-point performance on Saturday. But they are incredibly undersized as a team, they’ve lost five straight, and just put up 32 points at home against Saint Mary’s last Thursday. They are a disappointing 3-11 in WCC play and two of those wins were against Portland.
However, since Pacific has come into the league, Gonzaga has struggled at the Spanos Center, for whatever reason. In 2015, Gonzaga needed 45 points from Kyle Wiltjer to hold off the Tigers. It was a single-digit game until the final six minutes. In 2016, the Tigers led by five early in the second half and only trailed by one with seven minutes to play before Gonzaga finally pulled away. In 2017, Pacific led the undefeated Bulldogs at halftime and trailed by just five with 10 minutes to play. Last season, Gonzaga led throughout, but the lead was never larger than 13 and was single-digits for the majority.
There should be no reason that Gonzaga doesn’t win this game by 20+ points. They are simply more talented at every position. If Filip Petrusev is going to be a key piece in March, this would be a great game for him to get plenty of minutes. But that gym has very little energy, the lighting is dim, and it’s just a rough place to play. The good news is that this 2019 Bulldogs team seems immune to any problems past teams have had, so hopefully they’ll come out, create their own energy, and have an easy win before heading to Moraga.