Cougars have played Zags tough in recent years

SPOKANE — In Gonzaga’s problematic early season last year, there was no bigger crash than the one the Zags suffered at Washington State.

WSU schooled Gonzaga mercilessly, hitting 11 of 21 three-pointers, holding the Zags to 39.6-percent shooting and generally causing the visitors lots of reasons for soul-searching in an 81-59 victory.

“I would think so,” said Gonzaga assistant coach Ray Giacoletti when asked if it was the low point of the 2010-11 season. “The wheels came off and they got it rolling.

“That doesn’t happen very often at Gonzaga.”

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Monday is the rematch at the McCarthey Athletic Center, and the Cougars could not only be disadvantaged psychologically, but physically. Forward Abe Lodwick has been bothered by a foot sprain and is questionable as is guard Reggie Moore (groin).

The Cougars have had a scrimmage against Montana and an exhibition against Lewis-Clark State, but this will be a decided step up in class.

“Going four weeks (in practice), it’s nice to play somebody different,” said WSU coach Ken Bone. “I’m not sure we need to be playing Gonzaga at this point.”

These two teams feature contrasting strengths.

The Cougars are guard-oriented and expected to struggle up front, while the Zags have a deep and veteran front line but are less proven in the backcourt.

Friday night, Gonzaga struggled mightily against Eastern Washington before pulling away late for a 77-69 victory, built on 51 free-throw attempts, 18 apiece by Robert Sacre and Marquise Carter.

In two meetings, Bone has troubled the Zags. Not only did the Cougars win big last year, they built a double-digit, second-half lead two years ago in Spokane before guard Matt Bouldin led the Zags back to a victory.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com