Spokane, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - The third-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs continue their quest for a possible No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, as they play host to the Portland Pilots in West Coast Conference action on Thursday.
Portland enters the contest having lost four of its last five to fall to 12-9 on the season and 3-6 in conference. The Pilots, who are just 3-4 in true road games, dropped a 74-64 decision to visiting Saint Mary's last Saturday, and they've won only twice in their last eight games overall.
At the opposite end of the spectrum resides a Gonzaga squad that has won 13 straight games and owns an impressive 20-1 record for the season, which includes a 9-0 league ledger. The Bulldogs are 11-0 at home this season, and they own the nation's longest active home winning streak at 36 in a row. Their last home setback occurred on Dec. 8, 2012.
These two teams met in Portland back on Jan. 3, and the Bulldogs claimed an 87-75 victory. As a result, Gonzaga's lead in the all-time series was extended to 94-66, and it has won 20 of the last 21 meetings overall.
Kevin Pangos and Przemek Karnowski scored 21 points each to lead the Zags in the first meeting, while Alec Wintering finished with 20 points and eight assists for the Pilots.
Bryce Pressley scored 18 points and Thomas van der Mars logged a double-double consisting of 16 points and 13 rebounds, but those efforts weren't enough to push the Pilots past the Saint Mary's Gaels last weekend. Additionally, fellow starters Kevin Bailey (13 points) and Wintering (10 points) reached double digits as well for Portland, which struggled to hit a mere 30.2 percent of its field goal attempts, actually shooting better from 3-point distance (.444) in the game. Conversely, SMC drained 46.2 percent of its total shots, while claiming a commanding edge in points in the paint (32-16). Portland was guilty of only five turnovers, while Saint Mary's had 10.
Bailey is averaging 14.1 ppg to pace three double-digit scorers for Portland, as he is joined by Wintering (13.2 ppg, 5.6 apg) and van der Mars (10.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg), who help out in other areas as well. The team as a whole is putting up 72.5 ppg while allowing 68.9 ppg, and it is shooting a solid 38.4 percent from beyond the arc while earning a +5.1 advantage on the glass. Furthermore, the Pilots have converted 72.4 percent of their free throws this season.
Gonzaga entertained Pacific last Saturday, and the game got out of hand early as the Bulldogs rolled to a 91-60 victory. The Zags put forth a balanced attack as five players finished in double figures, led by Karnowski and Gary Bell, Jr. with 13 points apiece. Collectively, the team shot 60 percent from the floor, knocking down 11-of-25 3-point tries in the process, while at the same time limiting the Tigers to 33.3 percent field goal efficiency, which included a paltry 22.7 percent showing beyond the arc. Gonzaga doubled up its guests both in points in the paint (40-20) and second-chance points (16-8), while nearly doing the same in bench points (39-20).
Kyle Wiltjer has been GU's most potent scorer this season, as he nets 15.8 ppg behind a stellar 53.7 percent shooting effort. Karnowski (10.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg) has been better from the field (.612), and Domantas Sabonis is shooting a ridiculous 72.7 percent in tallying 9.8 ppg to go with his club-best 6.7 rpg and 17 blocks. Kevin Pangos (12.4 ppg, 4.9 apg) is one 3-pointer away from establishing the new school record for career treys. In all, Gonzaga has six players averaging at least 8.5 ppg, each of whom helps the team put up 81.6 ppg. The squad's defensive stance permits only 60.7 ppg, and the Zags are +8.7 in rebounding margin, and +2.0 in turnover differential.