Mens Basketball: Gonzaga vs San Diego - D1SportsNet

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Mens basketball

Gonzaga vs San Diego

Gonzaga is a two-game road trip away from yet another West Coast Conference regular-season title.

But it will be a tricky one.

On Thursday, the No. 6 Zags play at defensive-minded San Diego before traveling to face BYU in the regular-season finale.

Gonzaga (25-4, 15-1 WCC) holds a one-game lead over Saint Mary's, which hosts Pepperdine on Thursday and plays at Santa Clara on Saturday.

When the Bulldogs beat San Diego 69-59 on Feb. 1 in Spokane, Wash., they closed the game with a 13-5 run after the Toreros got within two.

Closing out games late has become a theme for Gonzaga over the past month.

On Saturday, last-place Pepperdine also got with two late before the Zags rattled off 11 straight points to start a game-ending 15-3 run.

"It was time to win, time to make the small, little plays that don't show up on the stat sheet that matter," junior point guard Josh Perkins told the (Spokane) Spokesman-Review. "Whether it's diving on the ball or getting a steal or taking a charge ... we did that."

With the 81-67 victory over the Waves, Gonzaga reached the 25-win mark for the 11th straight year -- only Kansas (12) has a longer active streak -- and saved Senior Night.

The Bulldogs had surrendered double-digit leads and lost their final home games the past two seasons.

"We needed to win this game," Zags forward Johnathan Williams said. "And basically, we started getting stops and rebounds."

To get to 10 straight wins, Gonzaga on Thursday will likely focus on Olin Carter III, who made five 3-pointers and scored 21 points in the first meeting.

Perkins and backcourt mate Silas Melson are likely to share that defensive assignment.

San Diego (17-11, 8-8) is coming off an impressive 75-62 win over BYU in which Carter reached the 1,000-point mark for his career.

For the first time this season, the Toreros' two leading scorers, Isaiah Pineiro and Isaiah Wright, did not start the game.

"I thought some of our details had gone away," Toreros coach Lamont Smith told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I thought they needed to understand that no one is bigger than the program."

It worked.

"I was mad," Pineiro said after scoring a game-high 20 points in 24 minutes.

"I didn't like that, of course," said Wright, who had 11 points, three assists and three rebounds. "I'm a competitor."

The Toreros built a 13-point first-half lead against the Cougars and stretched it to 16 in the second half. BYU got within 61-56 before San Diego closed it out with a 14-6 run.

"I'd say the best game we played in conference, for sure," Smith said. "From start to finish."

San Diego, which is tied with San Francisco and Santa Clara for fifth place, clinched a winning record for only the second time in 10 years and stopped a two-game losing skid for the fifth time this season.

"They've been resilient all year," Smith said. "We reached a tough patch, but they grinded for everything, just kept fighting. We could easily have rolled over, felt sorry for ourselves. But we picked ourselves off the canvas."


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