It seemed like a malfunction when the scoreboard displayed Pacific was leading top-ranked Gonzaga at halftime on Thursday just 12 days after losing by 46 points to the Zags.
But the board was accurate and the Bulldogs would eventually trail by seven before restoring order with a 76-58 victory. Now Gonzaga will look to put on a much better performance when it visits Brigham Young on Monday night in West Coast Conference play at Provo, Utah.
The Bulldogs (18-0, 9-0 WCC) own the nation’s longest active winning streak at 22 and have recorded 15 straight double-digit victories entering the clash with the Cougars (15-4, 6-2).
They typically roll over the bottom half of the WCC with such ease that a halftime deficit is indeed glaring.
But Gonzaga coach Mark Few wants to rebuke that perception. He insists it isn’t just roll the balls out and win by 20 or 30 points.
“It’s really hard when everybody around them nationally and everything just thinks you’re going to breeze through stuff, but it’s not reality,” Few said after the victory. “Teams are going to try different things and (Pacific) mucked it up a little bit and we probably didn’t handle that as well as we could have.”
The Bulldogs fared much better when they met BYU earlier this season.
Gonzaga led by as many as 32 points before settling for an 86-69 home win. Corey Kispert led the way with 23 points and the Bulldogs forced 16 turnovers while committing just eight.
Cougars coach Mark Pope said he relishes getting a second opportunity to play Gonzaga.
“I’m super excited about that, especially after we did not perform like us up there,” Pope said of the Jan. 7 game in Spokane, Wash. “So much of the credit goes to the Zags for our poor performance, but also some of it is on us.
“I think we’re excited to have another chance to see if we can look more like us when we play them. … We’ll get back to work hard to get ready for the best team in America.”
BYU has won six of seven games since the loss to the Bulldogs.
The Cougars clicked on all cylinders in their last outing as they steamrolled host Portland 105-60 on Thursday.
Gideon George was one of the BYU stars with a career-best 19 points to go with 13 rebounds.
In fact, George had more rebounds by himself than the entire Portland squad as the Cougars held a dominating 46-12 edge.
“I’ve never seen that stat in my life,” an astonished Pope said. “He outrebounded the whole rest of the team by one. He was spectacular.”
Spectacular usually applies to the performances of Kispert and Drew Timme but both Gonzaga stars were in quicksand in the first half of the Pacific game.
Timme scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half for his ninth 20-point effort of the campaign. Kispert had 12 of his 14 in the second half, including a run of 11 straight Gonzaga points during the part of the game that the Bulldogs took the lead for good.
Overall, Kispert averages 19.9 points per game with Timme close behind at 18.8.
Freshman standout Jalen Suggs (13.8 scoring average) contributed 19 points and nine rebounds against the Tigers.
“We kind of got together in our little huddle and just said let’s go,” Suggs said of the turnaround. “Drew made a big play on that dunk and got us fired up. From then on we played with really good fire. We went out and we attacked them. We stopped being victims.”
Alex Barcello is BYU’s top player and he leads the team in scoring (15.2), assists (4.6) and 3-point baskets (36).
Gonzaga leads the series 19-7 and has won seven of the past eight meetings.
–Field Level Media