USC Upstate (9-20) at (14) Gonzaga (23-5)
Tuesday, March 3rd, 9:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: McCarthey Athletic Center (6,000) -- Spokane, Washington. Television: FSN-RM. Home Record: USC Upstate 7-4, Gonzaga 10-1. Away Record: USC Upstate 1-15, Gonzaga 9-1. Neutral Record: USC Upstate 1-1, Gonzaga 4-3. Conference Record: USC Upstate 8-12, Gonzaga 14-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The 14th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs close out yet another highly successful regular season, as they welcome the USC Upstate Spartans to Spokane this evening, for a non-conference clash at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Mark Few's Bulldogs ran the table in the West Coast Conference with a perfect 14-0 league ledger. The team became the first in WCC history to post three undefeated conference campaigns. At 23-5 overall, Gonzaga heads into this season-finale with a six-game win streak in tow, including last weekend's 58-47 decision over San Diego.
Eddie Payne's Spartans have struggled this season to the tune of a 9-20 overall mark. However, eight of those wins came in Atlantic Sun action, including two straight to close out the month of February, with an overtime win against Mercer (93-90) followed by a blowout of Kennesaw State (80-51).
This game represents the first-ever meeting between these two teams in the hardwood.
The central problem for USC Upstate this season has been a lack of offense, as the team is shooting a mere .4-8 from the floor, leading to an anemic 61.1 ppg. The team also has a -2.2 rebounding deficit on the season, making it awfully difficult to have sustained success. Bobby Davis is the top threat for the Spartans, pacing the team in field-goal percentage (.537), scoring (14.6 ppg), rebounding (9.12 rpg) and steals (45). Nick Schneiders has done a solid job up front as well, averaging 9.6 points and 6.0 rebounds. The 7-3 junior is also a terrific shot-blocker, with 75 to his credit thus far. The Spartans posted a 29-point win over Kennesaw State, the largest of the season and largest in the school's Division I era. Schneiders led the charge with 20 points, while Chavis added 16. The Spartans were an efficient .545 from the field in the game, including 8-of-12 from behind the arc (.667).
The Zags finished off a perfect WCC slate with a stellar defensive effort against San Diego, holding the Toreros, to a meager 47 points, on just .372 shooting. Gonzaga itself only shot .444 from the field, but four of the five starters placed in double figures, led by Matt Bouldin's 15 points. Jeremy Pargo added 12 points in support, while Josh Heytvelt and Micah Downs chipped in with 11 points apiece. The Bulldogs have run the table in-conference because they have excelled at both ends of the floor. Gonzaga has more than enough firepower, averaging a steady 77.9 ppg, but can also turn up the heat defensively, holding foes well under 40 percent shooting (.370) and a mere 62.2 ppg. Heytvelt (15.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and fellow forward Austin Daye (12.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg) are a solid frontcourt duo. Bouldin (13.7 ppg) and Pargo (9.7 ppg, 5.0 apg) provide balance in the backcourt.
The Bulldogs are clearly the pick here. The Spartans have won just once in 16 true road games this season and getting a second victory in Spokane is not realistic. Gonzaga will head into its conference tournament with a full head of steam, as Coach Few should be able to empty his bench in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Gonzaga 86, USC Upstate 47
03/03 11:02:44 ET