While many top teams face plenty of inferior opponents in December to tune up for conference play, this appears to be Gonzaga's only easy matchup for the entire month.
After bouncing back from their first loss, the No. 14 Bulldogs host Campbell on Wednesday night before back-to-back games against Big 12 foes.Gonzaga (10-1) began the month by defeating Pacific, which previously beat reigning West Coast Conference champion Saint Mary's, before needing a late layup from Kevin Pangos to win 71-69 at Washington State. The Bulldogs followed with an 85-74 home loss to then-No. 13 Illinois on Dec. 8, but they didn't let the effects of that setback linger into Saturday's matchup in Seattle against a Kansas State team which entered 7-1.Kelly Olynyk scored 20 points in a 68-52 victory as the Bulldogs were more focused defensively after struggling in that area against the Illini.Gonzaga held its previous nine opponents to an average of 58.8 points on 37.5 percent shooting before letting Illinois make 30 of 60 from the field and hit 11 3-pointers. The Bulldogs clamped down Saturday, limiting the Wildcats to 33.3 percent shooting, outrebounding them 33-26 and forcing 18 turnovers."I didn't think we were going to go undefeated this year playing the schedule we have, but we needed to get back to who we are on the defensive end," coach Mark Few said. "We were there (against Kansas State). I'm not going to make any proclamations, but we got back to getting our feet under us and guarding the way we need to guard to be successful."The Bulldogs defense surely will be tested again as they host Baylor on Dec. 28 and visit No. 24 Oklahoma State on New Year's Eve. Gonzaga begins 2013 and WCC play at Pepperdine on Jan. 3.The 7-foot Olynyk, averaging 14.9 points and 6.6 boards, matched a season low with three rebounds Saturday but announced his presence with four dunks to dominate the offensive paint. The junior has elevated his game after he averaged 4.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in his first two seasons before redshirting in 2011-12.Olynyk, who missed the first three games this season for violating the school's code of conduct, has averaged 19.3 points and shot 75.0 percent in the last three games."He's a smart player, one that can hurt you in a lot of different ways passing, driving and scoring," Few said. "I think that's probably the biggest thing -- he went from a guy who loved to just play out there on the perimeter to a guy who is 7-feet tall and can use those skills down low."Olynyk could be in for another big game against Campbell (3-7), which has only one player in its regular rotation taller than 6-foot-6. The Fighting Camels have lost two in a row and six of seven, including a 67-65 home loss to Division II Rio Grande last Wednesday.Facing the Bulldogs for the first time, Campbell could be without star guard Darren White (21.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg) for a fourth consecutive game because of a hand injury.Trey Freeman (13.5 ppg), the only Camel to start every game, had a team-high 18 points last Wednesday after being held to six on 2-of-10 shooting in a 61-58 loss to Robert Morris on Dec. 4.Campbell, which lost 91-72 at No. 11 Cincinnati on Nov. 20, is 0-10 against ranked opponents.