No. 1 Gonzaga gets last-minute rematch with Pacific

NCAA Basketball

Top-ranked Gonzaga faces a team it whipped by a season-most 46 points less than two weeks ago when it visits Pacific on Thursday night in Stockton, Calif., after the West Coast Conference engaged in some frantic schedule shuffling.

The Bulldogs (17-0, 8-0 WCC) were without an opponent after Loyola Marymount was unable to play Thursday due to COVID-19 issues, and Gonzaga coach Mark Few was scouring the college basketball landscape for a high-profile opponent as a replacement.

Adding to the task was that Gonzaga’s game against Santa Clara on Saturday had been previously postponed. That left the Bulldogs with two openings and ample flexibility.

Overtures to play No. 5 Houston in Salt Lake City seemed promising before falling apart and the Cougars added a Saturday game against NAIA program Our Lady of the Lake. Soft discussions with No. 3 Villanova were rebuffed as the Wildcats opted to replace their scrapped Sunday game against Xavier with another Big East opponent, Georgetown.

With options becoming slimmer and time winding down, the WCC on Wednesday afternoon moved Gonzaga’s scheduled road games of Feb. 25 (Pacific) and Feb. 27 (BYU) to Thursday and Monday, respectively.

Pacific had the Thursday opening after its home game against San Francisco was recently postponed due to the Dons’ COVID-19 issues.

It turns into probably not the most pleasing scenario for the Tigers (5-4, 2-3), who were steamrolled 95-49 by the Bulldogs on Jan. 23 in Spokane, Wash.

Pacific shot just 27.9 percent from the field and was 2 of 16 from behind the arc while losing to Gonzaga for the 16th consecutive time. The Tigers are 1-18 all-time versus the Bulldogs.

Daniss Jenkins scored 17 points for Pacific. He averages a team-leading 13.6 points per game.

“Letting the game come to me,” Jenkins recently told the Stockton Record. “Sometimes I feel like I can force it and think about some different things. I literally just tell myself to not think about it and just go out and play.”

Drew Timme paced Gonzaga with 22 points and seven rebounds and Corey Kispert added 16 points and seven rebounds. The 49 points allowed matched the fewest points the Bulldogs have allowed since 2019.

Gonzaga owns the nation’s longest active winning streak at 21 games and 11 of this season’s 17 victories have been by 20 or more points.

Kispert leads the Bulldogs with a 20.2 scoring average and 53 3-point baskets. Timme ranks second on the squad in scoring (18.7) and rebounding (6.9).

Anton Watson ranks just sixth in scoring (8.1) but is shooting 61.4 percent of the field. He has made 11 of 14 field-goal attempts while averaging 11 points and five rebounds over the past two games.

The sophomore said part of his improved play lies in how good his left shoulder is feeling. He injured it last season and tried to play through it before being shut down and eventually undergoing surgery.

“I’ve never been in a situation like that where I had to stop playing in the middle of the season,” Watson told KREM-TV. “I was pretty hurt, but I just knew I had to stay positive. …

“I wanted to prove that I’m back and even better. I’m playing for the No. 1 team. We can do a lot of big things this year.”

While the Bulldogs are on a roll, Pacific enters the contest with three successive setbacks. The latest was a 95-87 double-overtime loss to BYU last Saturday.

The Tigers’ upcoming games with San Diego on Saturday and Feb. 11 were also postponed on Wednesday due to COVID-19 issues in the Toreros’ program.

–Field Level Media

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