SPOKANE – At first blush, it has the look of a mismatch: a Gonzaga basketball team ranked in the top 15 against a Washington State club picked for the basement of the Pac-12.
Recent history, though, would argue that Thursday night’s game at the McCarthey Athletic Center might be more than meets the eye.
“They play like it’s the game of the year when we play ’em,” says Mark Few, the Gonzaga coach. “They give great effort and let ’er rip.”
WSU, in fact, has produced victories in three of the past seven meetings, though two came in the salad days of Tony Bennett’s two-year, 52-victory run. Still, Ken Bone’s Cougars thundered past Gonzaga, 81-59, three years ago and took the Zags to the wire in a two-point loss last season. Both those games were in Pullman.
Bone also had a huge upset victory over Gonzaga in his previous coaching stop at Portland State.
“I think our kids are ready to play,” Bone said, referring to WSU’s competitive efforts against the Zags. “We probably get the best out of our guys.”
Gonzaga (3-0) had won seven straight from the Cougars before the streak ended in 2006 in a 77-67 WSU victory in Pullman that was the symbolic liftoff to the mega-successful Bennett years.
The Cougars are 2-0 and have been led by junior guard DaVonte Lacy, who has scored 49 points. He’ll likely be guarded much of the night by Zags junior Gary Bell, GU’s best defender.
Bell, shooting 62 percent from three-point range, leads five Zags in double figures at 17.3 points a game.
It’s Gonzaga’s last game before the Maui Invitational next week, where it opens with Dayton and then gets the Baylor-Chaminade winner.
WSU has another game Sunday in Pullman against Texas Christian before heading to the Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving weekend and an opening game against Butler.