San Diego Toreros (14-14, 7-9) at Gonzaga Bulldogs (28-1, 16-0)
When: Thursday, February 26th at 8:00 pm Pacific
Where: McCarthey Athletic Center, Gonzaga campus (Spokane, Washington)
Television: ESPN 2
Live Stats: Gametracker
Meet the Teams
The Toreros were one of the hottest teams in the second half of conference play before they hit a rough stretch of games. But they have still played well in their last couple games including pushing Saint Mary’s to double overtime in a game the Toreros probably should have won. Before that, they were rolling along having won four out of five including upsets of Pepperdine and BYU.
November 28, 2014; Fullerton, CA, USA; San Diego Toreros guard Duda Sanadze (10) moves to the basket against Princeton Tigers during the first half at Titan Gym. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The turnaround by San Diego in the second half has been built on improved interior play and increased contribution from their role players. Johnny Dee and Chris Anderson still lead the way, but the return to form by Duda Sanadze and the emergence of freshman Vasa Pusica has provided some much needed depth. On the inside, Brandon Perry has started contributing more consistently in support of Thomas Jacobs and Jito Kok.
That being said, the focus of the Toreros is still defense. They will hope to get Gonzaga locked in a low-scoring game and do just enough to win. They won’t have a big night inside even if their bigs play well, so the help will be simply to limit stars like Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis in hopes of giving the guards a chance to outplay Kevin Pangos and crew in the shooting game.
The Bulldogs are now just two games away from another perfect record in conference play, and will have the significant advantage of playing at home in both games where they hold the nation’s longest winning streak. Wiltjer continues to play out of his mind as the team leader, and he is backed by the most talented and deep roster in the conference.
Feb 19, 2015; Stockton, CA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) shoots a free throw during the second half of the game against the Pacific Tigers at Spanos Center. The Gonzaga Bulldogs defeated the Pacific Tigers 86-74. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. provide a bit of everything to help tie the team together, but it’s been the newcomers who have really shined. Transfer Bryon Wesley and freshman Sabonis have combined with Wiltjer to be one of the best scoring trios in the nation. Sabonis and Wiltjer have been particularly unstoppable inside thanks to the added presence of incumbent center Przemek Karnowski. In a conference where good big men are hard to find, the Gonzaga front line is good enough to compete with the best teams in the nation.
The Bulldogs can easily overwhelm the Toreros with their talent, especially in the interior. The San Diego frontcourt of Jacobs, Kok, and Perry combined for just 6 points in the last meeting with the Bulldogs. That being said, the Toreros did do a good job of limiting much of the Gonzaga roster as they got the Bulldogs into a low-scoring game. But with so much depth, the Bulldogs still had plenty of firepower to win.
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This one won’t be as close as the last time. The Toreros often come out jittery playing in front of the large crowd in Spokane, and the Bulldogs could jump ahead early. Kok and Perry may still be able to limit the Bulldogs a little inside, but not enough to keep the Toreros in the game. Wiltjer should have another monster night as should Wesley who won’t have much trouble with the smaller San Diego guards. The Bulldogs should pull away and while it might never be a huge blowout, once the Toreros fall behind they won’t be able to catch back up.
GONZAGA – 68
SAN DIEGO – 54