SPOKANE, Wash. (AP)Drew Timme had 22 points and 13 rebounds to help No. 12 Gonzaga beat San Diego 97-72 on Thursday night.
The win sets up a matchup between Gonzaga and No. 15 Saint Mary’s for the West Coast Conference regular season title on Saturday. The Gaels haven’t won an outright WCC regular season title since 2011-12 and haven’t beat the Zags twice in a season since 2015-16.
”It’s a much anticipated matchup. They got us last time and we’re hungry. It’s going to be a good environment but we’ve got to focus on the game plan and not get caught up in all that stuff,” said Ben Gregg, who had 18 points for the Zags.
Timme needs to average 19.3 points per game over the next three games to break Gonzaga’s all-time scoring record set by Frank Burgess in 1961.
The Zags (23-6, 13-2 West Coast) dug out of an early six-point deficit with a 19-2 run before Jase Townsend took over for USD, scoring on an array of jumpers and drives to keep the margin in single digits. Not to be outdueled, Gregg reeled off 11 points in the last 4:35 of the first half as part of a 17-7 Gonzaga run to close the half up 17.
”We watched San Diego take Saint Mary’s down to the wire there last week and knew they had some really talented offensive players,” said Gonzaga head coach Mark Few. ”I thought we did a nice job of handling their mixing defenses.”
Julian Strawther scored 17. Gonzaga is 16-0 this season when Strawther scores at least 14 points and have won 146 straight games when ahead by 10 or more at the half.
Timme and Bolton scored or assisted on 10 straight points to start the second for Gonzaga, igniting a 17-6 run to push the Zags’ lead to 30.
The Toreros (11-18, 4-11) couldn’t contain the Zags’ No. 1 scoring offense after holding No. 15 Saint Mary’s scoreless over the final 7:05 of a 62-59 home loss last week. San Diego closed the game with a 12-2 run.
Townsend scored 15 points and Marcellus Earlington added 11 in his return to the starting lineup after sitting out against Saint Mary’s due to injury.
”They’re a rhythm team offensively, so our first priority was to execute well enough offensively to set our defense so they wouldn’t get into that rhythm . then they went on those runs and never looked back,” said San Diego head coach Steve Lavin.
Gonzaga is on a four-game win streak after an eight-point setback to Saint Mary’s. With a win, the Zags claim a share of the WCC regular season title for the 11th straight season. The Toreros have sole possession of second-to-last place in the WCC with one home game remaining and have lost 15 straight to Gonzaga. USD has lost four straight and six of its last seven.
San Diego: Host Santa Clara.
Gonzaga: Home against Saint Mary’s.