MORAGA, Calif. -- One of the best rivalries in all of college basketball heats up again Thursday when Gonzaga visists McKeon Pavilion to take on the Saint Mary's men's basketball team in a showdown between the West Coast's two most successful programs.
The sold-out game is set for an 8 p.m. tip-off, and will be televised nationally on ESPN2. Alex Jensen will have the call on SMCGaels.com, and live stats will also be available via the website.
From a big picture perspective, there hasn't been much to separate the Gaels and Bulldogs in recent seasons.
In the last eight meetings between the two, Saint Mary's and Gonzaga have each won four times. The two have met in each of the last four West Coast Conference Tournament finals, each winning two.
This meeting shouldn't be any different. Both teams come in with a sterling record, and each has proven itself to once again be a top contender for both the WCC championship and postseason play.
Saint Mary's (21-4, 10-1 WCC) brings a nine-game win streak into action on Thursday. Last week, the Gaels went on the road to pick up tough wins at Santa Clara and San Diego.
Lately, guarding the Gaels has been a challenge unto itself. Four players -- Matthew Dellavedova, Stephen Holt, Beau Levesque and Brad Waldow -- now average double figures in scoring, and each has raised his level of play over the last few weeks.
Against Santa Clara, it was Levesque's turn to show what he could do. The native of Lafayette, Calif. poured in a career-high 24 points against the Broncos, making a career-best six 3-pointers along the way.
Two days later at San Diego, Dellavedova was the one to shoulder the scoring load. The Bob Cousy Award finalist scored a game-high 19, and added seven assists in the 74-64 victory.
In both games, Waldow was consistently good in the low post. In the two games combined, he scored 32 points. Against Santa Clara, he also collected eight rebounds and a career high-tying three blocks.
Gonzaga (23-2, 10-0) enters ranked No. 3 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 5 in the Associated Press rankings. The Bulldogs earned home wins over Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount last week to stay unbeaten in conference play.
Leading the way for the Bulldogs this season has been forward Kelly Olynyk. The junior from British Columbia averages 17.7 points per game, good for fifth in the WCC, and is seventh in the conference in rebounding at 6.8 per game.
Olynyk is joined in double figures by forward Elias Harris (14.8) and guard Kevin Pangos (11.9). Gonzaga ranks first in the conference in scoring at 78.6 points per game. SMC is third at 77.8.
The last time the Gaels and Bulldogs met, Gonzaga pulled out an 83-78 win in Spokane on Jan. 10. The game featured a tremendous second-half rally by Saint Mary's, with the Gaels outscoring the Bulldogs 50-37 after halftime.
Thursday's game is the first in a tough stretch of games to close the regular season for Saint Mary's.
Home games against BYU, Creighton and Santa Clara loom on the horizon, meaning plenty of good basketball is yet to be played at McKeon Pavilion.
To get tickets to any of those three games, contact the SMC Athletic Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx, or click the Tickets link on SMCGaels.com.