Gonzaga is in prime position to recapture the West Coast Conference title but would still appear to have at least a couple more hurdles in its way.
The fifth-ranked Bulldogs will try to clear the first of those by ending their three-game road losing streak against San Francisco on Saturday.Gonzaga had its run of 11 consecutive West Coast titles snapped last season by Saint Mary's, but the Bulldogs (24-2, 11-0) are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Gaels after beating them 77-60 on Thursday.Sophomore guard Gary Bell Jr. matched a career high with 20 points after scoring a combined 12 over his previous two games."It means a lot to me and the guys who haven't gotten one yet since we've been here," said fellow sophomore Kevin Pangos, who had 18 points. "It was huge for us. Now we're that much closer to getting that conference title we didn't get last year."Gonzaga, winner of seven in a row, will play two of its final five games on the road with arguably its most difficult a trip to BYU on Feb. 28. The Bulldogs, though, first have to travel to a place where they haven't won since Feb. 14, 2009.They've narrowly lost in each of their three straight defeats at San Francisco, falling twice in overtime and giving up the go-ahead points with 3.3 seconds left in last season's visit. Gonzaga shot 51.1 percent in that 66-65 loss but committed a season-high 22 turnovers.The Bulldogs turned the ball over only eight times in a 66-52 home win over the Dons (11-14, 4-8) on Jan. 26. They also held San Francisco to 39.2 percent shooting and didn't let any of its players reach double digits in scoring.Elias Harris recorded one of his five double-doubles this season in that victory with 12 points and 11 rebounds, and it was his second in as many games against San Francisco. He had a team-best 21 points and 11 boards in the loss at War Memorial Gymnasium last season.This time, Gonzaga will visit a team that's 1-5 in its last six home games. San Francisco missed a chance to register three straight wins with a 78-76 home loss to Portland on Thursday.After shooting better than 51.0 percent and hitting 14 3-pointers in each game during road wins over BYU and Pepperdine, the Dons shot 41.3 percent and were 9 of 22 from beyond the arc. They managed to tie the game at 72 with 2:01 remaining but missed two of their final three shots.Leading scorer Cole Dickerson was one of two Dons with 17 points, but the WCC's leading rebounder at 9.8 per game had six after grabbing 11 in three straight contests.Dickerson was held scoreless on 0-of-4 shooting and had five rebounds in the loss to Gonzaga earlier this season. Chris Adams, whose 17 points Thursday matched a career high, was the closest player to double figures with nine.San Francisco is 3-20 in its last 23 games against Top 25 teams with all of those victories coming in home games versus Gonzaga. The only time the Dons faced a top-five Bulldogs squad was a 75-72 road loss Feb. 27, 2006.Gonzaga has won 26 of the last 30 meetings and leads the series 45-22.