Fresh And Ready
Phoenix,Az - Home is beckoning for Gonzaga, which has the chance to complete an impressive sweep of opponents on the road over a stretch of nearly three weeks on Sunday when it plays Arizona as part of the Desert Classic at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix.
The fourth-ranked Bulldogs (7-0) have not played at home since an 80-46 rout of Idaho on Nov. 18. Since that game, they captured the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla., by winning three games in four days - rolling past Oklahoma State and Maryland before beating then-No. 12 Tennessee in the championship game.
Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made the Gonzaga –6.5 point spread favorites for Thurday’s game against the Saint Joseph’s. Current College Basketball Public Betting Information shows that 57% of more than 275 bets for this game have been placed on Gonzaga -6.5
They then went on to defeat Indiana in the first-ever basketball game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and are coming off a 74-52 rout of in-state rival Washington State on Wednesday.
"We have a possibility of going undefeated," guard Matt Bouldin said. "That's something all of us are thinking about."
Josh Heytvelt has been a key reason Gonzaga is off to its best start under coach Mark Few, averaging a team-high 16.3 points. He scored 22 in the win over Washington State and is shooting 59.5 percent.
"We've played big-time teams and came out and showed we could win against top teams," the 6-foot-11 center said. "It's always good to have zero losses."
Arizona (6-2) is not the last of the big-name non-conference opponents for Gonzaga. The Bulldogs still have games left against No. 2 Connecticut in Seattle on Dec. 20, a rematch with the Volunteers on the road Jan. 7 and a home game versus No. 17 Memphis on Feb. 7.
The Bulldogs have excelled on both ends of the floor, averaging 79.1 points while holding opponents to 58.3 per game. That has continued a steady defensive improvement over the past two seasons for Gonzaga, which allowed 70.1 points in 2006-07 before yielding only 63.8 per game last season.
Usually, it's the Wildcats who are the marquee draw in this event as they make the trek north from Tucson. But with interim coach Russ Pennell still trying to establish his identity from under the long shadow of predecessor Lute Olson, Arizona has taken a backseat to both the Bulldogs and No. 20 Arizona State, which is playing IUPUI in the other game here.
"It's another measuring mark," Pennell told reporters in Tucson. "If you have to play UCLA in our league, and Arizona State's hot now too - well, those are Top 25 teams. You need to play against the teams like Gonzaga and figure out, are you even in the ballpark with these guys?"
Arizona is coming off a 69-56 victory over San Diego State on Wednesday, pulling away with an 11-0 run over the final 4:16. Jordan Hill had 25 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks and four assists while playing all 40 minutes for the Wildcats, whose losses this season have been to UAB and Texas A&M by one point each.
"We knew we had to do a better job boxing out," Hill said. "They were just grabbing all the rebounds. We came out in the second half and started boxing out. We tried to get every rebound."
Hill is averaging 18.4 points and a team-high 12.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks for Arizona, which is shooting 52.6 percent overall, including 44.5 percent from 3-point range. Forward Chase Budinger leads the Wildcats in scoring at 19.4 points per game and is connecting on 59.5 percent (22-for-37) of his shots from beyond the arc.
This is the first meeting between the teams since Arizona's 96-95 double-overtime victory in the second round of the 2003 NCAA tournament. The Wildcats have won both all-time games in the series.
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Posted: 12/14/08 12:40 PM ET