San Francisco gets second chance to upset No. 4 Gonzaga
- No. 1 Michigan State to be tested early
- Defending champ UVa looks to fill holes
- No, 4 Duke expects balanced talent
- High expectations for No. 5 Louisville
- Deep No. 7 Maryland has high hopes
Only one team has given Gonzaga a legitimate battle during the Bulldogs' 12-game winning streak.
San Francisco suffered a late-game collapse in that upset bid, but the Dons will take another shot at delivering a stunner when they visit No. 4 Gonzaga on Thursday in West Coast Conference play at Spokane, Wash.
The Dons (17-5, 5-3 WCC) held a two-point lead with under four minutes to play in San Francisco on Jan. 12. But the rest of the game belonged to the Bulldogs, who closed with a 17-2 surge to post a 96-83 victory.
The 13-point margin of victory is Gonzaga's lowest during the 12-game winning streak. The Bulldogs have won by an average of 34 during the stretch, including eight triumphs by 30 or more points.
The odds of San Francisco pulling off an upset in the rematch aren't very high. The Dons have lost 15 straight overall games to the Zags and have dropped their last 29 visits to Spokane.
Gonzaga (21-2, 8-0) holds a 2 1/2-game lead over BYU in the WCC race after notching an 85-69 home win over San Diego last Saturday.
Junior forward Rui Hachimura scored 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting for his second-highest scoring output of his career. Hachimura has 14 outings of 20 or more points and is averaging a team-leading 20.4 per game.
"Unbelievable," senior point guard Josh Perkins told reporters of Hachimura's performance. "He gets better every day. If he'd made all his free throws, he probably would have had 40."
Perkins, who averages 10.9 points and a team-leading 6.7 assists, had six assists against the Toreros. That raised his career total to 632, eight behind Blake Stepp (640 from 2000-04) for second place in program history.
Junior power forward Brandon Clarke averages 16.4 points and a team-best 7.8 rebounds and also has 69 blocked shots to tie Zach Collins (2016-17) for second place on the single-season list. Clarke needs two to surpass record-holder Austin Daye (70 in 2008-09).
The Bulldogs are also looking for opportunities to get junior forward Killian Tillie (6.3 scoring average in eight games) more involved. Tillie underwent ankle surgery in October and is just rounding into form.
"It's still pretty tough getting back in the rhythm of the game," Tillie told reporters. "Last year, I finished the season playing pretty good, and I want to do the same things and it's not coming. But I have to be patient and trust the process."
San Francisco is playing its third straight road game and lost each of the first two. The Dons fell 67-63 to San Diego on Jan. 26 and 86-80 to Saint Mary's last Saturday.
"We've got to concentrate on ourselves and get better," San Francisco coach Kyle Smith told reporters after the loss to Saint Mary's. "We defended really well down in San Diego for about 30 minutes, then just got turned around down there and came out in this game (against the Gaels) and they just punched us. We've got to defend."
Sophomore guard Charles Minlend and senior point guard Frankie Ferrari each scored 22 points against Saint Mary's. Minlend knocked down a career-best six 3-pointers.
Minlend averages a team-best 15.2 points, while Ferrari averages 14.1 points and a team-leading 5.7 assists.
Sticking with Gonzaga in "The Kennel" can be a hard task. The Dons found themselves down by 17 at halftime against Saint Mary's before trimming the margin of defeat.
"It would have been easy for us just to cave," Smith said. "We didn't. That's the silver lining. You're not excited for that, but it could be worse."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 7, 2019