With at least a share of the West Coast Conference title locked up, Gonzaga finds itself in a pretty comfortable spot heading into the final stretch of 2013-14.
Now the No. 25 Bulldogs can clinch the regular season conference crown for themselves when they visit second-place BYU on Thursday night.Led by Sam Dower Jr., Gonzaga (23-4, 13-1) has been playing some of its best basketball of the season of late, winning nine of its last ten games -- the lone blemish coming with a 60-54 non-conference loss at then-No. 24 Memphis on Feb. 8.Dower had 25 points and 15 rebounds Saturday to lead the Bulldogs to their ninth consecutive WCC win, 86-67 over Loyola Marymount. Kevin Pangos added 17 points and Gonzaga controlled the paint with 17 offensive rebounds, leading to 22 second-chance points.The win gave the Bulldogs at least a share of their 13th regular-season title in the last 14 years and capped off a 15-0 home record this season. Gonzaga plays its final four games on the road."To finish the season undefeated at home; I don't know how many teams in college basketball can do that but it's not many so that's an accomplishment," head coach Mark Few said. "We have a lot of other things we want to accomplish this season so we have to start moving on to those. They need to enjoy it, feel good about it and feel really proud about what they've done thus far this year."Gonzaga has been wearing down conference foes with a suffocating defense. The team has allowed 61.9 points per conference game, the lowest in the WCC. The Bulldogs held the Lions to 4-of-13 shooting from 3-point range Saturday and dominated the boards 40-25.When the Bulldogs faced BYU on Jan. 25 in Spokane, they forced the Cougars into a 2-for-11 performance from long range in an 84-69 win. Pangos scored 24 to lead Gonzaga.BYU (18-10, 10-5) has been strong on its home floor this season, going 12-1 while outscoring opponents by an average of 19.3 points. The team has won nine straight at home, and its only loss in Provo came 90-88 against then-No. 21 Iowa State on Nov. 20 -- the team's lone matchup there this season versus a ranked opponent."It should be a great game. Gonzaga is a really great team," Cougars coach Dave Rose said. "I have a lot of confidence in our guys, especially here at home."BYU is led by junior guard Tyler Haws, the WCC leader with a 24.7 scoring average in league play. He's been in a bit of a slump lately, however, averaging 19.0 points on 41.2 percent shooting over his last three games. Haws scored 23 on 7-for-15 shooting in the loss to BYU earlier this season.The Bulldogs have gone 5-2 against BYU since the first meeting on March 19, 2011.