Silencing the skeletons of last year’s trap loss in San Diego, No. 7 Gonzaga bottled up scorers and defeated the Toreros 60-48 on Monday night to push its record to 13-1 overall and a 2-0 conference start.
Kyle Wiltjer finished with a team-high 15 points, including three 3-pointers (3-6 from deep), and six rebounds for the Bulldogs–his 8th time leading the team in scoring this season. Wiltjer scored 10 of the Zags’ first 12 points to aide a 15-5 start for GU.
Dec 29, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) shoots while defended by San Diego Toreros center Brandon Perry (2) during the second half at Jenny Craig Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Byron Wesley had 12 points and five rebounds and Kevin Pangos added 10 points, six boards and four assists despite four turnovers for Gonzaga. Pangos scored eight of his 10 points in the first half, including a 3-pointer at the end of the first half that put the Bulldogs up 15 at the intermission.
Johnny Dee finished with 20 points and eight rebounds for the Toreros, but with five points at halftime, struggled until the game was seemingly out of reach. He is now just 7 points from becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Stretching the lead above 20 midways through the second, the Zags seemingly had put the Toreros away. In a 22 point hole with 10:01 to go, Johnny Dee scored 15 of his team’s 18 points to cut the deficit to 10 with under a minute, but GU held on. The pesky Toreros had seven steals and forced 13 total Gonzaga turnovers, keeping the Zags 22.2 points below its season average.
The MVP: Kyle Wiltjer
The junior forward carried the Zags through a rough shooting night (42.3 percent, 10 under season average) shooting 46.2 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range. Wiltjer is a bonifide WCC Player of the Year candidate at this mid-mark juncture of the season and has paced the team with efficient multi-faceted scoring night-in and night-out.
After returning home for a four-day break, Gonzaga will head to Portland to take on the streaking Pilots Jan 3. Portland (10-4, 1-1 WCC) earned a gutsy win over San Diego last Friday and will face a top-10 Zag opponent in front of its only home sell-out of the year. Gonzaga lost in Portland last January.
San Diego embarks on a two game road swing to the Bay Area. They will visit San Francisco on New Year’s day and Santa Clara on January 3rd. Both the Dons and Broncos are currently 1-1 in WCC play with each having a win over Pacific.