Drew Timme remains the star attraction for No. 12 Gonzaga, while Julian Strawther has become more than a capable sidekick.
The junior guard has moved into a co-star role over the past three games and looks to continue the trend Thursday night when the Bulldogs host San Diego in West Coast Conference play at Spokane, Wash.
Strawther is averaging 27.3 points over the past three games — scoring 26 points against BYU on Feb. 11 and following up with back-to-back 28-point outings versus Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine. He has made 27 of 46 field goal attempts (58.7 percent) and 13 of 24 3-pointers (54.2) during the span to raise his season average to 15.5 points.
“It’s huge and we need it,” Timme said after Saturday’s 97-88 road win over Pepperdine. “That’s something he’s really learned as the season goes on. His role has really changed from last year and it’s like look, ‘You have to be the guy.’ He’s done a great job, especially lately, being aggressive and hunting his shot.”
Gonzaga (23-5, 12-2 WCC) remains one game behind Saint Mary’s (13-1 WCC) with two regular-season conference games remaining. The two WCC powers finish the league schedule against each other on Saturday in Spokane.
Timme also had his foot on the gas against Pepperdine by scoring 34 points on 15-of-20 shooting for his fourth 30-point outing of the season. He leads the Bulldogs with a 21.3 scoring average.
Timme also moved into eighth place on the WCC all-time scoring list with 2,117 points, passing legendary Bill Cartwright (2,116) of San Francisco.
In addition, he needs just 80 points to pass Frank Burgess (2,196 points, 1958-61) as Gonzaga’s all-time leading scorer. Burgess played just three seasons for the Zags while Timme is completing his fourth.
The Bulldogs will look for a better defensive showing against the Toreros after struggling on that end against Pepperdine. Coach Mark Few said afterward it was a game in which his club had to outscore the opposing side.
“That’s all it was,” Few said. “We were able to play great offense, a little better offense than they played.”
Gonzaga doesn’t figure to have similar issues against San Diego (11-17, 4-10), a program it has defeated 15 straight times and 26 of the past 27. Few is 49-4 against the Toreros during his 24 seasons.
San Diego’s last win in the series was a 69-66 home win Feb. 22, 2014.
The Toreros haven’t played since losing 62-59 to then-No. 17 Saint Mary’s on Thursday in San Diego. They trailed by 23 points with under 12 minutes remaining before closing with a 24-4 burst to make it close.
Neel Beniwal, who scored a career-high 11 points, had his last-second, 70-foot heave carom off the backboard.
Nic Lynch led San Diego with a season-best 17 points as the club played without leading scorer Marcellus Earlington (17.6 points per game) and leading rebounder Eric Williams Jr. (14.5 points, 9.5 rebounds per game). Williams (foot) has missed the past four games.
The Toreros have dropped three straight games, five of six and 11 of their past 15.
San Diego’s lone victory this month was an 87-79 home win against Loyola Marymount on Feb. 4 when Earlington scored 30 points and Deuce Turner added a season-high 20.
“A lot of people didn’t believe we would win,” Turner told the student television station afterward. “They beat Gonzaga so this was a really tough team.”
–Field Level Media