Posted on January 9, 2013 at 2:14 PM
No. 8/9 Gonzaga (15-1, 2-0) hosts St. Mary’s (12-3, 1-0) Thursday at 8:00 p.m. in the McCarthey Athletic Center. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
The Stats – There aren’t many statistical discrepancies to be found between the Zags and Gaels. In fact, GU barely edges St. Mary’s in a number of areas. Gonzaga holds a slight edge – and the WCC lead – in scoring (80.7 to 79.5) and field goal percentage (51.5 to 50.1). On the flipside, SMC is the best three-point shooting team in the conference at 40.5 percent, with 8.5 makes per game. Gonzaga has been the better team defensively, which could be crucial. These teams can fill it up, so a few timely stops or a scoring drought – even a brief one – could be the difference. Also, in their three losses SMC gave up big numbers in the second half to Pacific (44 points), Georgia Tech (43) and Northern Iowa (50). Even if it’s close at the half, a late surge could put the Bulldogs in the driver’s seat.
The Stars – While St. Mary’s has a handful of guys that can hurt you, Gonzaga fans will likely have their eyes fixed on No. 4, Matthew Dellavedova. The Aussie senior point guard is averaging 17.4 per game. In the process, he’s connected on 41.9 percent of his three-point attempts. Dellavedova has reached 20 points six times, and topped 30 points on three occasions this season. He hasn’t torched everyone, though. In their first meeting with Pacific the Tigers limited him to 16, just two days before a five-point outing against Georgia Tech. Northern Iowa held him to nine points in their win over SMC, while Harvard forced a four-point effort on a 1-for-13 shooting night. Gonzaga had a tough time slowing the 6-foot-4-inch guard last year, with games of 26, 20 and 22 against GU. On top of his scoring ability, Dellavedova leads the WCC in assists at 6.7 each game. As for GU, what more can you say about Kelly Olynyk? His team-high scoring average is now up to 17.1 after his 33-point outburst at Santa Clara. The Canadian seven-footer should have plenty of looks at the basket against the guard-heavy Gaels. But don’t lose sight of Kevin Pangos. He’s had a knack for putting up big numbers and making big shots when GU has needed it. With all the attention around Dellavedova and the magnitude of this game, who would be surprised to see the sophomore show out?
The Storylines – Well this won’t take much digging. St. Mary’s won the WCC regular season and tournament titles last year, ending Gonzaga’s run of 14 straight seasons with at least one of the two. After splitting their regular season meetings last year, a 78-74 overtime loss in the conference championship game earned SMC the tournament crown. Last year the Gaels got a leg up in the WCC with their 83-62 win in California. The result of Thursday’s game will once again set the tone in the conference going forward, and could likely echo into March.