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Gonzaga offense eyes improvement in rematch against patient Pacific

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 27, 2019, 9:28 p.m.

STOCKTON, Calif. – It was arguably Gonzaga’s worst offensive performance of the season.

The Zags still won by 31 points.

No. 1-ranked Gonzaga and Pacific collide Thursday at the Spanos Center, seven weeks after the Zags’ 67-36 victory in Spokane.

The outcome was never in doubt, despite Gonzaga shooting 43.4 percent (second lowest of the season), 25 percent on 3-pointers (tied for second lowest) and registering its lowest point total of the season.

Pacific successfully drained the shot clock to shorten the game, which was the main reason the Zags failed to crack 70 points for the only time this season. It also left the Tigers in scramble mode with the shot clock in single digits.

They committed a season-high 22 turnovers. Their 36 points and 26.7 percent shooting were season lows until a dismal 58-32 home loss to Saint Mary’s last Thursday.

Gonzaga forwards Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke have scored in double figures in every game, but they were limited to 10 points apiece in the first meeting as the undersized Tigers packed the lane. The two still combined to make 8 of 11 shots.

Josh Perkins led the Zags with 14 points and Zach Norvell Jr. added 11.

If Gonzaga is searching for motivation entering the rematch, a couple of current players, including Perkins, might recall their visit to the Spanos Center in 2017. The eventual national runner-up Zags trailed by eight early in the second half before rallying for an 81-61 win.

Among other items remaining on Gonzaga’s checklist:

• Earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and possibly the top overall seed with Duke recently dropping two games.

• Finishing off Gonzaga’s fifth unbeaten West Coast Conference season under 20-year head coach Mark Few and the first since 2013.

• Building on the momentum of rising to No. 1 in the AP and USA Today polls after a Senior Night blowout against BYU last Saturday.

Gonzaga (27-2, 14-0 WCC) has won 30 consecutive conference road games, matching Davidson’s streak, 29 of those with guard Stephen Curry, from 2006-09. The Zags’ only loss in their past 44 conference road games came against Saint Mary’s – GU’s opponent in Saturday’s regular-season finale – on Jan. 21, 2016.

“Just to try to carry this energy with us on the road,” senior guard Geno Crandall said following the 102-68 victory over BYU. “And honestly, defense. Some days shots aren’t going to fall. Obviously, it’s a bit easier to make shots in the gym you practice in. If we can pick up our defense and have solid performances on that end, I think we’ll be all right.”

The Tigers (13-16, 3-11) are locked into ninth place in the standings after being picked sixth in the coaches’ preseason poll. Two of their WCC victories are over winless Portland.

They’ve dropped five straight and rank last at 58.2 points per game in WCC play.

The majority of Pacific’s scoring comes from four guards: senior Roberto Gallinat (15.0 points per game), sophomore Lafayette Dorsey (11.0), junior Jahlil Tripp (10.9) and freshman Ajare Sanni (8.6).

Gallinat and Tripp were teammates at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas.

Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins (13) heads to the basket as Pacific’s Jeremiah Bailey (13) and Kendall Small (25) defend in the Jan. 10 game at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins (13) heads to the basket as Pacific’s Jeremiah Bailey (13) and Kendall Small (25) defend in the Jan. 10 game at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

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