Spokane, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - The third-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs go in search of their 30th win of the season when they play host to the BYU Cougars in the regular-season finale for both teams on Saturday night.
Both West Coast Conference clubs have certainly made themselves proud in 2014-15, with BYU logging a 23-8 record, which includes a 12-5 league ledger. Gonzaga is an impressive 29-1, and its 17-0 WCC mark has earned it the 18th regular-season conference crown in program history.
BYU claimed an 82-69 win at Portland on Thursday, giving the team victories in each of its last five games, and seven of its last eight overall. The Cougars have won their last two games away from home, giving them a 7-3 record in true road tests this season.
Gonzaga ran its eye-popping win streak to 21 by knocking off San Diego at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Thursday night. It also improved the team's national-best home winning streak to 41 games. A victory here would earn the Bulldogs their second perfect conference record in the last three seasons.
These two teams met in Provo on Dec. 27 to open the WCC schedule, and Gonzaga (now 7-3 in the all-time series) won that game in an 87-80 final. Kyle Wiltjer paced the Bulldogs with 24 points, while Kevin Pangos tallied 21 and Byron Wesley a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. For BYU, Tyler Haws and Anson Winder hit for 17 points each, and Kyle Collinsworth had one of his record-setting five triple-doubles this season in logging 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Haws amassed 21 points and seven rebounds, Skyler Halford came off the bench to contribute 19 points, and Collinsworth pitched in with 15 points and 11 helpers as BYU won at Portland two nights ago. In a game that featured eight times and nine lead changes, the Cougars hit nearly 40 percent of their 3- point tries (7-of-18) and went 15-of-20 at the free-throw line, while the Pilots made good on 37.5 percent of their long-range launches, scored 17 points at the foul line, but committed an unsightly 19 turnovers.
Haws will win the WCC's scoring title this season, as he currently ranks first with an average of 22.3 ppg. A 47.6 percent shooter from the field, Haws is also one of the top free-throw shooters in the league, converting at an 88.6 percent clip (186-of-210). BYU boasts three other double-digit scorers in Winder (13.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg), Collinsworth (13.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 5.9 apg) and Chase Fischer (13.0 ppg), as the team puts up a conference-best 84.4 ppg behind outstanding shooting efforts of .468 overall (No. 2 in the WCC), .385 from beyond the arc (No. 3), and 77.7 at the charity stripe (No. 1). Despite leading the league in several other statistical categories, the Cougars don't perform as well at the defensive end, as foes net 72 ppg, which ranks as the worst yield in the conference.
Gonzaga leads the WCC in scoring defense (59.7 ppg), but the team was even stingier in its recent win over San Diego, allowing a season-low 39 points to the Toreros who shot just 29.6 percent from the floor, missing all but one of their 11 3-point attempts along the way. As for the Zags' offensive pursuits on Thursday night, they drained 51.1 percent of their total shots, despite a 3-of-12 performance out on the perimeter. A 39-31 edge on the glass certainly helped the home team's cause, as both squads took very good care of the basketball in combining for only 12 turnovers. Przemek Karnowski paced GU with 14 points and eight boards, while Gary Bell, Jr. added 13 points, Wesley a dozen and Domantas Sabonis 11.
Although he had an off night against USD in which he went just 2-of-5 from the field in netting a mere five points, Wiltjer continues to pace the Bulldogs in the scoring column with his 17.0 ppg. He also ranks third on the team's rebounding list with 5.7 rpg, just off the pace set by Sabonis (9.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and Karnowski (10.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg). Pangos (11.7 ppg, 5.0 apg) and Wesley (10.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg) round out the double-digit scorers for a group that generates 79 ppg (No. 2 in the WCC) on the strength of their national-best .527 field goal percentage. The 3-point shot is falling at a league-leading 40.4 percent rate, and the team has, as mentioned, done exceptionally well for itself on defense as well. Add a WCC-best +8.2 rebounding margin to the equation and it's easy to see why the Bulldogs have achieved the unprecedented level of success they have this season.