Setting: The McCarthey Athletic Center on the campus of Gonzaga University will be hopping tonight as the No. 22 Gaels of St. Mary’s pay a visit for a West Coast Conference battle of Catholic schools with the No. 20 Bulldogs.
Plot: If nothing else, the Bulddogs are battle-tested with pre-conference games against Oklahoma St., Maryland, Arizona, UConn and a pair of tilts against Tennessee.
While St. Mary’s can’t boast the same level of competition, the Gaels have taken down Providence, 81-75; Oregon, 78-73; and Kent State, 75-69.
Sub-Plots: For the first time in WCC history, two ranked teams will battle. The conference began play during the 1952–‘53 season.
Flashback: Gonzaga lead the overall series 46-23 and have won the last 13 meetings in Spokane. The Bulldogs and Gaels were two of three West Coast Conference representatives in last year’s NCAA Tournament — both lost in the first round — Gonzaga to Davidson, 82-76 and St. Mary’s to Miami, 78-64.
San Diego was the third representative from the mid-major conference. The Toreros knocked off UConn, 70-69 before falling to Courtney Lee and Western Kenucky, 72-63.
Conflict: St. Mary’s hits 45 percent from the field including 33.2 percent from behind the arc and 71.5 percent from the line for 77-points per game.
Gonzaga scores 79.6 points per game by dropping 47.9 percent from the field, 70.1 percent from the charity stripe and 37 percent from long range.
St. Mary’s grabs 45.3 rebounds per game, makes 7.9 steals and 5.8 blocks per game. Gonzaga gets 43.3 boards per contests, 7.2 steals and 5.9 blocks per game.
The Gaels limit opponents to 38.3 percent from the field and 29.6percent from the arc for 62.6 points per game. The Zags hold opponents to 61.8 points per game on 35.9 percent shooting from the field and 31.4 percent from the land of three-pointers.
Both teams effectively create space.
The Gaels are a how-to video of screens on the ball.
They know how to read opposing defenses and always know when to slip a screen or step back for an open three.
Five Bulldogs have connected for double-digits from behind the arc: Josh Heytvelt (14), Austin Daye (21), Matt Bouldin (29), Steven Gray (31) and Micah Downs (26).
Patrick Mills with an 18.7 ppg, leads three Gaels averaging double figures.
Omar Samhan throws in 13.9 per game, and Diamon Simpson chips in 12.8 per game.