Second-ranked Gonzaga has recorded four straight blowout victories by an average of 35.5 points.
The margin could be closer on Saturday night when the Bulldogs face Pacific in West Coast Conference play in Spokane, Wash.
The Tigers (15-7, 3-3) are a much-improved team in Damon Stoudamire’s fourth season as coach despite losing 74-60 to visiting BYU on Thursday night.
The other factor is that Gonzaga leading scorer Filip Petrusev may not be on the court.
The sophomore power forward sprained an ankle during last Saturday’s 92-69 victory over BYU and is doubtful at best to see action against the Tigers.
“It’s part of the game,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few told reporters of Petrusev’s injury. “We’ve got to keep playing.”
Petrusev leads Gonzaga (20-1, 6-0) in scoring (16.1), rebounding (7.7) and blocks (24). He also has attempted the most field goals (224) and free throws (139) of anyone on the roster for a team that has won 12 consecutive games.
The Bulldogs do have six other players who average more than nine points per game but the club doesn’t have much depth beyond that with freshman forward Anton Watson recently declared done for the season due to a shoulder injury.
So Petrusev’s absence would leave the powerful Zags with a six-man rotation as they attempt to increase their home winning streak to 35 games, the longest in the nation.
Second-leading scorer Corey Kispert (14.4) was named WCC Player of the Week for his play in two games last week when he averaged 17.5 points and made 7 of 12 3-point attempts. Kispert, a junior forward, has made a team-best 53 3-pointers.
Senior forward Killian Tillie is coming off one of his top efforts as he matched his season highs of 22 points and 10 rebounds against BYU for his first double-double of the season. Tillie is averaging 12.7 points in 15 games after missing time with knee and ankle injuries early in the season.
Senior guard Admon Gilder, who averages 11 points, has improved his level of play. Gilder averaged 16 points in last week’s two games and recorded 10 of his 24 steals during the stretch.
Gilder is heavily bullish on the squad’s balance that includes sophomore shooting guard Joel Ayayi (11.4 points) and senior point guard Ryan Woolridge (10.2 points, team-best 4.6 assists). The Bulldogs lead the nation with an 88.8 scoring average.
“We are so scary because we have so many pieces that can score,” Gilder told the Spokesman-Review of Spokane. “The way we play together, the way we move the ball and the way everyone can make shots and get their own shots is scary. I think when we are able to play at the level we are playing at, we are scary.”
In Pacific’s loss to BYU, star wing Jahlil Tripp recorded 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double in the past eight games and seventh of the season. The senior averages 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds.
Pacific was in good position when it held a 53-51 lead over BYU prior to the midway point of the second half. But the Tigers went more than seven minutes without a point as the Cougars scored 21 in a row en route to the victory.
“They just hit a lot of tough shots down the stretch,” Tripp told reporters after Thursday’s loss. “At a point, we just couldn’t score the ball, and that hurts you against a really good team like that.”
Tripp was 7-of-11 shooting while the rest of the Tigers were just 18 of 52. Pacific finished at 39.7 percent and made just 3 of 13 3-point attempts.
Gonzaga has won 16 of the 17 meetings with the Tigers, including the last 14. Pacific’s win, 70-60, was during the 1976-77 season.
–Field Level Media