Preview & Prediction: By Raphielle Johnson
One of the better rivalries that tends to escape national attention takes center stage on Wednesday night as undefeated #4 Gonzaga (6-0) makes the short trip to Pullman for a battle with Washington State (6-2). The preferred styles couldn’t be further apart, with the Bulldogs thriving in an up-tempo game while the Cougars look to turn games into a half-court slugfest. Gonzaga’s toughest game to date came in their nine-point win over Tennessee in the championship game of the Old Spice Classic, an affair that tested the mental toughness of the Bulldogs. They passed that exam in style, but the Volunteers were more than willing to oblige with a fast brand of basketball.
The trip to the Palouse will offer a test in toughness unlike any that Gonzaga has seen all year, and for the Cougars to have any shot at winning this game they can’t get into a high-scoring affair. Freshman guard Klay Thompson leads the way with an average of 11.6 points per game, and veterans Aron Baynes and Taylor Rochestie can also provide help on the offensive end. But Tony Bennett’s team averages just over sixty-one points per game, relying on one of the nation’s stingiest defenses to pick up victories. Wazzu leads the Pac-10 in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense and three-point percentage defense. Add to this a ranking of third in rebounding margin and it’s no wonder why the Bennett era has been so successful in Pullman.
As for Mark Few’s team, he’s got a lot of options on the offensive end of the floor to turn to. Point guard Jeremy Pargo hasn’t scored as much as he did last season, but his increased desire to be a distributor has made this team far more dangerous on the offensive end of the floor. And it’s not like he’s lost the ability to light up the scoreboard; it’s just that with options such as Josh Heytvelt, Austin Daye, Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray (just to name four) he really doesn’t have to monopolize the ball on offense as much. And those names don’t even include Micah Downs, which makes for six players currently averaging double figures in scoring.
They share the ball, don’t turn it over often and aren’t a terrible defensive team themselves, giving up just over fifty-nine points per game. That’s why even though this game will be lower scoring that they’d like, the Bulldogs will take bragging rights back to Spokane in this one.
Winner: Gonzaga Margin: 5-9 pts.
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About Raphielle Johnson
College sports has always been a source of excitement for Raphielle Johnson, be it through watching, writing, or taking a shot in the dark and walking onto a college football team just to live the life (Arizona Football, 2001). Raphielle is the assistant editor, providing his own work in addition to helping out with the site operations. When not writing for CHN, you can usually find him in front of a television set watching one of many pay-per-view sports packages that he owns. He can be followed at twitter.com/raphiellej.
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