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Gonzaga vs. San Francisco: Game Preview

The Zags try to start a winning streak again.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at San Francisco D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs look to bounce back from their most recent loss with a game against the San Francisco Dons at home.

Gonzaga is coming off a disappointing 78-70 overtime loss against the Saint Mary’s Gaels in Moraga. The Zags controlled the game for the first 35 minutes or so, but unfortunately, basketball games are usually 40 minutes long.

San Francisco is currently riding a two-game losing streak, having lost to both Saint Mary’s on the road and Santa Clara at home last week.

The Dons also lost to Gonzaga early in conference play, but it was a tight contest, with Rasir Bolton coming away as a hero for Gonzaga as the Zags won, 77-75.

Meet the opponent

San Francisco Dons, 15-11, KenPom #102

Last time around, it looked like San Francisco was going to walk away with the win. Rasir Bolton had other ideas, but we shouldn’t expect the Dons to come in with much of a different game plan. This is still a team that lives and dies by the three, and wish senior guard Khalil Shabazz on the court, they are always a danger to go off whenever they want.

His fellow senior backcourt mate Tyrell Roberts is a danger as well. Roberts recently dropped 30 points on BYU (14-of-16 free throws!!!), so the Gonzaga backcourt will have its hands full defensively.

Either way, the offensive makeup for the Dons is simple. Drive to the hoop or kick out for the open three. This team does not take simple two-point jump shots. For a team like Gonzaga, which has struggled with dribble-drive penetration all season, the Dons are a unique challenge.

What to watch out for

Gonzaga needs to try out rebounding in this game.

The Dons were hot but there was one specific stat in the last go around which was impossible to ignore: Second Chance Points for San Francisco - 22, Gonzaga - 2. Basically, the main reason the Dons were able to stay in the game is because Gonzaga allowed them too. San Francisco, which is not a good offensive rebounding team, grabbed 13 boards. They consistently out-hustled Gonzaga in that realm and made the Zags pay.

Because the Dons are so dangerous from three, that just can’t happen again. Gonzaga needs to play with the energy it overall lacked last time around and not bank on the late-game heroics of Rasir Bolton to save them.

Nolan Hickman’s ankle.

Hickman went down with an ankle injury in overtime against Saint Mary’s and had to be helped off the court. Since then, we haven’t heard a peep about the status of the point guard’s ankle, with Few’s only quote being a classic Few-ism: “I’m not a doctor and it’s literally five minutes after the game.”

Presumably, if Hickman is out, that most likely means we see Malachi Smith earning the start, with him and Bolton operating the offense.

How does Gonzaga come back from Saturday night?

Gonzaga looked to have a very good Saint Mary’s team in the bag until Aidan Mahaney said otherwise. Considering the Gaels were favored, the loss on Saturday night stings mainly because it looked like Gonzaga was on its way to pulling the “upset.” So it goes.

San Fran played the Zags incredibly tight last time around. LMU beat Gonzaga at home this season. With this team, we shouldn’t necessarily just land on the assumption that the Zags will win by 20+ because this is at home. Gonzaga is currently licking its wounds and blood is in the WCC water this season.

If Gonzaga is inconsistent for most of the season and then snaps into consistency tomorrow night, then great. All that matters is that the team plays well and continues to play well as March approaches. For the most part, they did that on Saturday night, just not for long enough. Let’s see it for 40 minutes tomorrow.