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Game Preview: Gonzaga at Pacific

Can Gonzaga return to form?

NCAA Basketball: Loyola Marymount at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

After last night’s seemingly inevitable but nonetheless heartbreaking defeat, normally a trip to Stockton to abuse the hapless Pacific Tigers would be just what the doctor ordered. But, as this season has proven, no victories are assured. KenPom has Gonzaga as a 15-point favorite but the Zags were 16-point favorites to beat LMU last night. Speaking of beating LMU at home, that’s exactly what the Pacific Tigers did in their second WCC game defeating the Lions 78-72.

Meet the opponent

Pacific Tigers, 10-11 (3-3 WCC), KenPom #222, NET #226

Before departing to the Boston Celtics, Damon Stoudamire had Pacific surging, they were 23-10 in his last full season as coach (19-20). Stoudamire’s replacement, Leonard Perry already has Pacific with two more wins than they had all last season.

Pacific has taken full advantage of the Transfer Portal with their five leading scorers all playing somewhere else last season; two from Oklahoma State and one each from Georgetown, Northern Arizona and UTSA.

The Tigers scoring (11.7 ppg) and rebounding (4.5 rpg) leader is Keylan Boone. The 6’ 8” 200-pound forward left his twin brother Kalib at Oklahoma State when he entered the Transfer Portal and moved west. 6’ 2” Georgetown transfer Tyler Beard leads the team in assists (2.9 apg) and steals (0.8 spg) while shooting .425 from deep but averaging just less than two attempts per game.

Pacific has 11 players averaging double-digit minutes per game and Coach Perry has had 12 different starters through the course of the season. Their current starting front court consists of the Boone at “center” alongside 6’ 7” Judson Martindale and 6 ‘ 5” Luke Avdalovic, so rebounding is an issue. According to KenPom, they rank 302nd in defensive rebounding and 304th in offensive. KenPom rates their offensive efficiency as 170th and defensive efficiency as 269th.

What to watch for

Drew Timme returns to form

It surprises no one to write as Drew Timme struggles, so does the team. In the seven games through the Kent State and Pepperdine contests, Drew Timme was averaging almost 28 points per game on a blistering 73% two-point shooting percentage. In the past five games, he’s averaging 17 points per on a pedestrian 46.2% shooting from two. Pacific’s small front line, defensive deficiencies and lack of rebounding prowess should provide Drew the opportunity to break out of his recent malaise and return to mid-season form.

Control the defensive boards

San Francisco, Santa Clara and now LMU all got double digit offensive rebounds against the Zags. As Mark Few put it in the post LMU presser, “bigger dudes just pushing us around.” Last night in the midst of a Gonzaga run, Michel Graham got two offensive rebounds to extend a key possession resulting in him making two free throws. Gonzaga needs to exploit their size advantage and dominate the glass to minimize the Tiger’s second chance opportunities.