The Gonzaga Bulldogs have their backs against the wall in the West Coast Conference, left with little room for error this season. After starting the conference slate 3-0, Gonzaga stumbled last week, dropping two games in three days on the road. Now, at 3-2 in conference play, Gonzaga has a tough task at hand as they host the last unbeaten team in the conference on Thursday night: St. Mary's.
The Gaels head to Spokane ranked -- at No. 24 -- and atop the WCC standings, holding a two game advantage on third-place Gonzaga. St. Mary's has done it with offense where they've excelled all year. By effective field goal percentage -- a statistic that weights three-pointers higher than twos -- the Gaels are the best shooting team in the nation, hitting at a 58.5 percent rate.
St. Mary's hot shooting could spell trouble for the Bulldogs, who have struggled on the defensive end all year. The Bulldogs hold opponents to a 48.6 percent eFG on average, ranked 152nd in the nation. Gonzaga has especially struggled against the three, allowing opponents to shoot 37.6 percent from long range, among the worst in the nation. With St. Mary's among the best in the country at hitting the three, Gonzaga could be in for a long night.
The Bulldogs haven't lost to a conference opponent at McCarthey Athletic Center since falling to Santa Clara in 2007 -- a streak that's in jeopardy tonight. With the stakes high and Gonzaga fighting for their lives in the WCC, you can be sure the Kennel Club will be at full-throat, cheering on their Zags.
Gonzaga takes the court in a crucial WCC game on Thursday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. For more on the Zags, check out SB Nation's Slipper Still Fits.