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Gonzaga advances to play Purdue on Friday after 102-78 win over Portland State

Breakout performances from Malachi Smith and Hunter Sallis helped the Zags cruise past Portland State in the Phil Knight Legacy opener.

NCAA Basketball: Phil Knight Legacy-Portland State at Gonzaga Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Unlike some of their highly-ranked peers playing against Oregon-based schools in the Phil Knight Invitational/Legacy, the Gonzaga Bulldogs took care of business early and left no doubt in a 102-78 win over the Portland State Vikings.

Malachi Smith played his best game in a Gonzaga uniform and finished with 23 points including 5-5 from the three-point line. Drew Timme (18 points), Rasir Bolton (14 points), Hunter Sallis (12 points), Anton Watson (10 points), and Julian Strawther (10 points) all scored in double figures as well. Nolan Hickman looked to be moving better after picking up an ankle injury at Texas last week.

Perhaps the Zags were put on notice that they couldn’t take anyone for granted after No. 1 North Carolina struggled mightily to put away WCC counterpart Portland (KenPom #123) before Duke labored to a narrow three-point win over Oregon State (KenPom #223). Notably, the Beavers had just lost to Portland State (KenPom #260) five days prior.

The Vikings kept it tight for about nine minutes, applying heavy full court pressure which tested Gonzaga’s ball security. You can’t blame them for going that route considering the Zags had demonstrated a cool indifference to taking care of the ball through their first four games of the season.

The pressure tested the Zags for a little while, but it didn’t too long to unlock Portland State’s defense and soon the rout was on.

It was the Gonzaga backcourt that landed the killshot with each of Smith, Sallis, Bolton, and Hickman taking their turns to help establish a 55-31 lead at halftime. Smith and Sallis looked as confident shooting the ball as they have all season which is perhaps a sign of offensive explosions to come from both.

The Zags took heir foot off the gas in the second half though they weren’t punished for it too badly. They still played their balanced and attacking offensive game, though the Vikings re-discovered their shooting touch to keep pace with Gonzaga for much of the second half.

Of course, the Zags had simply built too large of a lead in the first half to ever be troubled and may have been saving some juice for Purdue on Friday night. Gonzaga might need it after the Boilermakers looked good in their win over West Virginia to set up a quality semifinal on Black Friday.