More miles lie between Gonzaga and San Diego than any other two West Coast Conference campuses. Though that doesn't mean these teams aren't familiar with each other. San Diego head coach Bill Grier was a longtime assistant at Gonzaga. His assistant Kyle Bankhead played for the Zags in the early 2000s. They even have a former Gonzaga walk-on, Chris Sarbaugh, in their starting line-up.
That insider knowledge of their opponent gave the Toreros a victory last time the Zags visited Jenny Craig Pavilion. For a while tonight, it looked like San Diego had another upset in them.
Gonzaga's offense, fourth in the nation scoring 1.194 points per possession coming into this game, was stifled all night long. In the first half they managed a respectable 52% shooting from the field. That number is slightly misleading as the Zags made six of their final eight shots of the half to take what was an uncomfortable two possession lead and stretch it to 15 points.
San Diego somehow managed to stay close throughout the half despite their stellar backcourt of Johnny Dee and Christopher Anderson going a combined 1-11 from the field in the first. Anderson never managed to get it going, but you can't keep Dee from scoring forever.
Dee, the nation's active three point scoring leader, needed over 30 minutes to knock down his first from long range. He finished with three makes from deep and 15 of his game high 20 points came in the second half.
Unfortunately for the Toreros' upset hopes, this is a team that is hyper-reliant on Dee and Anderson. Without Anderson, and Dee getting hot just too late, they didn't have enough on offense to keep up with the Zags. Normally that's nothing to be ashamed of, since Gonzaga always boasts an elite offense.
Tonight, particularly in the second half, Gonzaga was not the Gonzaga we've come to know. The Zags managed just 0.781 points per possession in the second half — and a season low 0.909 points per possession for the game. They were held scoreless for over 7 minutes, from 8:42 until 1:37 remained in the game.
Transfers Byron Wesley and Kyle Wiltjer led the way for Gonzaga with 15 and 12 points respectively. Wiltjer was strong in the first half, with 10 points, but it was Wesley who came through in the clutch.
His lay-up ended the Zags' scoring drought. Then, he hit two free throws on the next possession to push the Zags' lead back into double-figures.
While Gonzaga wasn't scoring, the Toreros weren't really either. During the 7:05 scoring drought, Gonzaga missed six field goals. San Diego missed seven. Only Johnny Dee managed to score from the field during that span.
Dee accounted for nine of the Toreros' ten points during Gonzaga's scoring drought. See what I meant about the Toreros being hyper-reliant on Anderson and Dee?
That's no way to beat the No. 7 team in the country. So, Gonzaga won. It was ugly, but Gonzaga won.
Gonzaga improves to 13-1 on the year and 2-0 in WCC play. San Diego falls to 7-7 (0-2).