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BYU basketball: 10 things to know about top-ranked Gonzaga

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PROVO — The Cougars will host the nation's No. 1 team for the first time when BYU takes on Gonzaga in West Coast Conference play Thursday night.

The Zags will bring an impressive team to the Marriott Center in Provo when the two teams meet for the first time in league play this season.

Here's a look at 10 things about Gonzaga.


• 22 straight wins matches a school record

The Zags are accustomed to long winning streaks under head coach Mark Few, and they will have their chance to set a program record with 23 straight victories if they beat BYU on Thursday. The Bulldogs have three other win streaks of 20 or more games in the Few era, including 22 straight in 2014-15, 21 in a row in 2003-04 and 20 consecutive wins in 2005-06.

BYU stopped the Zags' last 22-game win streak, beating No. 3 Gonzaga 73-70 on Feb. 28, 2015, in Spokane, Washington. That day, Kyle Collinsworth led the Cougars with 20 points as BYU won its first game over a top 3 team since 1981 and broke Gonzaga's 41-game home win streak.


• Trailed in the second half only twice this season

Gonzaga has trailed in the second half in only two games this season. The Zags trailed Florida in the second half before rallying for a 77-72 win in the AdvoCare Invitational in late November, then came back from a five-point halftime deficit against Pacific in their second WCC game and coasted to an 82-62 win.

The Zags are also outscoring their WCC opponents in the second half by an average of 16 points.

Gonzaga hasn't trailed in its past five wins, beating Santa Clara, Portland twice, San Diego and Pepperdine while leading wire-to-wire. The last time the Zags trailed in a game was Jan. 14 against Saint Mary's, when Jordan Mathews hit a 3-pointer with 4:31 to play in the first half to give Gonzaga the lead for good.


• Efficient Zags

Gonzaga is the only team to rank in the top 10 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency. The Zags are sixth in adjusted offensive efficiency in Ken Pomeroy’s college basketball ratings and are third nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency at 87.3. Gonzaga is No. 1 overall with an adjusted efficiency margin of plus-33.18.


• No. 1 in scoring margin

Gonzaga is leading the country in scoring margin this season, beating teams by an average of 23.8 points per game. The Zags are ninth in the country in scoring defense (61.4 ppg) and 14th in scoring offense (85.2). Something has to give Thursday, as BYU is averaging 82.6 ppg, 23rd nationally, which is 21.2 ppg — or 26 percent more — than what the Zags are giving up.


• 5 wins over top 40 KenPom teams

Gonzaga has five wins over teams currently ranked in the top 40 of Ken Pomeroy's ratings. That includes victories over Florida (No. 10), Arizona (13), Iowa State (27) and Tennessee (38) in neutral-court games, as well as a home win over Saint Mary's (14). The Zags are ranked No. 1 overall in KenPom's ratings.


• Stepping up against big competition

Of their five wins vs. top 40 teams in KenPom's ratings, the Bulldogs never trailed in three of them — against Iowa State, Arizona and Tennessee. Gonzaga trailed Saint Mary's for 3:29, all in the first half, but its only big rally in these marquee matchups came against Florida, whom Gonzaga trailed for 27:28 of game action before taking the lead for good with 8:46 to play.

Arizona, Tennessee and Saint Mary's never pulled within a possession of the Zags in the second halves of their games, and Gonzaga led the Wildcats — ranked No. 5 in the latest AP poll — by double digits for nearly 15 minutes in the second half.


• The odds of winning out

ESPN gives Gonzaga a 25.4 percent chance to win out, according to its College Basketball Power Index (BPI). The Bulldogs' toughest tests, according to ESPN, are at Saint Mary's (Feb. 11) — where ESPN gives Gonzaga a 42.4 percent chance to win — and at BYU this Thursday, where ESPN gives the Zags a 77.1 percent chance of victory.


• New faces in the starting lineup

This is nothing like the Zags team BYU fans remember from last year, with Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis and Eric McClellan leading the way. Of Gonzaga's five starters, only one — sophomore guard Josh Perkins — started every game for the Bulldogs in 2015-16.

Three starters this season are transfers: point guard Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington) and forward Johnathan Williams (Missouri) sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules, while Mathews is a graduate transfer from California who started 19 games for the Golden Bears last year. Senior center Przemek Karnowski played in five games last year and was a preseason all-WCC selection, but he underwent season-ending back surgery in December and received a medical redshirt.


• League leaders

Gonzaga is shooting 53.7 percent in conference games this season, best in the league. Karnowski is leading the way in WCC play, shooting 71.3 percent from the field, while the No. 2 and 3 shooters in league action also come from Gonzaga: Williams is shooting 61.8 percent and freshman Zach Collins is making 61.4 percent of his field goals.

The Zags are tops in the WCC in field-goal percentage defense at 37.9 percent, while BYU is No. 2 at 41.2. Gonzaga also is best in the WCC in assists per game, averaging 17.5 per contest, and have a 1.54 assist-to-turnover ratio on the year, good for ninth nationally.

Williams-Goss is tied with BYU's Nick Emery atop the WCC, averaging 1.8 steals per game in conference play.


• Williams-Goss a Cousy finalist

On a team highlighted by balance — four players, and nearly a fifth, average double-figures in scoring — Williams-Goss is standing out on a national level. He was one of 10 players named Monday as a finalist for the Bob Cousy award, given annually to the nation's top point guard.

Williams-Goss leads the team with a 14.8 ppg average while also shooting 86.5 percent from the free-throw line. He paces the Zags in assists (4.9 per game) and steals (1.6) as well while the redshirt junior is second on the team in rebounding (5.6).