No. 13 Gonzaga (11-1) hosts Baylor (8-3) Friday at 5:00 p.m. in the McCarthey Athletic Center. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
The Stats – The Bears may pose the biggest challenge thus far for Gonzaga's bigs. Baylor averages 38.7 points in the paint, while allowing just 28.4. In their season-opening win over Lehigh, 68 of their 99 points came in the paint. Cory Jefferson ranks 16th in the nation with 2.78 blocks per game. However, BU has been susceptible to the three-ball. Colorado, College of Charleston and Northwestern combined to go 21-of-49 from deep. On the flipside BU went 12-for-53 in those games. For GU, Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk have both scored in double figures in seven of the eight games they’ve played together this season. However, the team has shot below 28 percent from beyond the arc in four of their last five games.
The Stars – Baylor may have four players averaging double figures (Pierre Jackson, Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Brady Heslip), but there’s no mistaking the engine that drives Scott Drew’s club. Jackson – the 5-foot-10-inch senior guard – was named Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year. So far he’s lived up to the hype, leading the league with 19 points per game, while sitting 2nd in assists (6.3), and 3rd in steals (2.4). He also takes care of the basketball (2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio), plays a ton of minutes (34.2 per game), and shoots a high percentage (44 percent, with 2.3 threes made per game). Jackson has scored 10 or more points in 19 consecutive games. Baylor's interior game could put pressure on the Zags' guards. Kevin Pangos has had two double-digit outings since his 23-point outburst against Davidson. Meanwhile Gary Bell Jr. has averaged 12 in their last four games. The sophomore duo has both scored double-figures just once in the last eight games they’ve both played. The opportunity could be there for them to get some open looks. Guy Landry Edi has also been quiet in recent weeks, but Baylor’s small three-guard lineup could create some mismatch opportunities for the athletic 6-foot-6-inch wing.
The Storylines – GU holds a 3-0 series lead over the Bears. The teams most recently met in Dallas two seasons ago, resulting in a 68-64 Bulldog win. Before that, Baylor left Spokane with a 78-69 loss in 2006, in their first meeting since 1991. Gonzaga will be playing its fourth Big 12 foe this season, having already grabbed wins over West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas State. Their tour through the conference continues New Years Eve with a trip to Oklahoma State. Baylor is familiar with playing in hostile territory. On December 1st they snapped Kentucky’s 55-game home winning streak, giving the Bears their first non-conference road win over a Top-25 squad. Mark Few’s squad stands in the way of another possible milestone victory for the Bears.