Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. San Diego Toreros Pick & Prediction JANUARY 6th 2024

You can count on the sun rising, your taxes coming due and Gonzaga winning its West Coast Conference opener.

The No. 24 Bulldogs made it 25 straight WCC-opening wins under coach Mark Few Thursday night with an 86-60 romp of outmatched Pepperdine. They’ll set out to build on that Saturday night in Spokane, Wash., when they host San Diego.

Gonzaga nearly fell out of the Top 25 poll Monday after a Dec. 29 home loss to the better-known Division I team from the 619 area code — San Diego State. But the Bulldogs (10-4, 1-0 WCC) hung on for their 142nd straight week as a ranked team and then made short work of Pepperdine.

Graham Ike scored 20 points to lead five players in double figures and Gonzaga also shot well from the 3-point line, a source of great concern lately. It was 8-of-19 from the arc, even getting a make from Ryan Nembhard for the first time in a month.

“It was about time,” Nembhard said. “I’m consistent with my work, always the same routine, but it was good to see them fall. Just got to keep being confident in my shot.”

The Zags established a 45-27 lead at halftime as they started the game with a 15-2 run and then went on a 13-1 spurt later in the half. In the second half, they made eight straight shots and upped their lead to 74-43 at the 7:55 mark, allowing coach Mark Few to empty the bench.

It was the kind of game Few’s wanted to see for a while.

“I think we came out with a bunch of energy,” he said. “The defense and the effort were really good tonight. It’s good to get back to winning. We don’t like losing. We don’t lose much around here, so this one felt good.”

Meanwhile, the Toreros (10-6, 0-1) opened conference play Thursday night in San Diego with an 81-70 loss to Saint Mary’s despite a big game from Deuce Turner. The guard rifled in a career-high 34 points on 11-of-18 shooting but couldn’t carry his team to the win by himself.

Turnovers and the damage the Gaels did off them undid San Diego’s hopes of an upset. The Toreros coughed it up 19 times and it cost them 27 points.

“They score 81, you take away 27 points, Saint Mary’s is sitting at 54 points,” San Diego coach Steve Lavin said. “They didn’t have to earn those points against our set defense. A lot of those were getting steals and getting out in transition.

“If we kick the ball out of bounds, we can set our defense. But lose live-ball turnovers and that leads to easy points the other way. Those are correctible errors.”

Turnovers have been a frequent issue for the Toreros. Their assist-turnover ratio of 0.9 ranks 308th in Division I and their 13.5 turnovers per game is 306th. To have any chance of pulling off the upset, they’ll have to minimize their miscues and be able to play a five-on-five game.

Turner leads the team in scoring at 15.2 ppg. Ike paces Gonzaga with 14.9 ppg.

The Bulldogs have won 16 straight meetings with San Diego and 49 of the past 52.

–Field Level Media

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