Portland, OR (SportsNetwork.com) - The 22nd-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs hope to keep their perfect record in West Coast Conference play intact, as they hit the road to challenge the Pilots from the University of Portland on Thursday night.
Gonzaga brings a 14-2 overall record into this matchup, and the team has won each of its first four WCC bouts by double digits, all of which took place in Spokane. The Pacific Tigers were the Zags' latest victims, as they were steam rolled in what turned out to be an 86-64 final. Gonzaga, which is playing only its second true road game of the campaign this evening, has not lost to a WCC foe at home since 2011, and the team is an eye-popping 67-2 in WCC home games since the McCarthey Athletic Center opened back in 2004.
Portland is at the other end of the success spectrum in terms of its performance thus far against its West Coast Conference rivals, losing three of its first four battles, including a 72-63 decision to visiting Saint Mary's-CA last Saturday. The setback was the team's fifth in 11 home games this season, and the Pilots have lost four of their last five in Portland.
Gonzaga owns a 91-65 lead in the long-standing rivalry with Portland, and the Bulldogs have really dominated the Pilots under current head coach Mark Few, going 27-1 during his tenure. Current Pilots' head man Eric Reveno is 0-14 against the Zags.
Gonzaga put forth a complete effort in its recent rout of Pacific, as the Zags shot a blistering 69.2 percent from the field, which included a lights-out 10- of-13 effort (.769) from 3-point range. Meanwhile, the Tigers showed very little teeth in connecting on only 31.7 percent of their total shots. Drew Barham and Kevin Pangos paced the Bulldogs with 16 points apiece, while David Stockton tallied 15 and Sam Dower came off the bench to contribute 13.
The Bulldogs are one of the more potent offensive teams in the nation, averaging 82.9 ppg in hitting 52.0 of their field goal attempts (No. 3 in the country), which includes a national-best 44.3 percent effort from beyond the arc. The team is no slouch on defense either, yielding 66.6 ppg with foes shooting just 39.1 percent from the floor overall, and 31.3 percent from long range. Pangos is averaging a club-best 17.4 ppg, while combining with Stockton to hand out 8.9 apg. Dower (12.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg), Gary Bell, Jr. (12.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.0 apg) and Przemek Karnowski (10.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.0 bpg), the former two having missed some time recently due to injury, round out the unit's double-digit scorers while excelling in other areas as well.
Poor shooting was the primary culprit in Portland's recent loss to Saint Mary's, as the squad converted only 38 percent of its field goal attempts in falling for the third time in four league bouts. Ryan Nicholas scored 12 points to lead the way, with moderate assistance coming from Alec Wintering (11 points), Kevin Bailey (10 points) and Bobby Sharp (10 points). As for the Gaels, they knocked down 45.7 percent of their total shots, while winning the battle on the boards (35-28) and outscoring the Pilots in the paint (32-20). Portland did manage an exceptional 22-of-26 effort at the charity stripe.
Production at the offensive end hasn't been Portland's problem this season, as the team is putting up 78.3 ppg in draining 45.6 percent of its field goal tries, which includes a 35.4 percent showing from 3-point land. The effort at the defensive end however, yields 72.0 ppg, with the opposition using the long-range shot to maximum effectiveness by nailing nearly seven treys per game at a 39.2 percent clip. Bailey leads the club with 17.1 ppg, while Nicholas (13.0 ppg) and Thomas van der Mars (12.9 ppg) join him in double figures. Nicholas is close to averaging a double-double as he also pulls down 9.3 rpg, while van der Mars comes up with 6.9 caroms per contest in helping the Pilots to a +3.2 rebounding margin.