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Game Preview: Gonzaga vs. Portland

The Zags return home to take on the Pilots

Portland v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

The Gonzaga Bulldogs will return home this weekend when they take on Portland on Saturday night. They’re coming off an intense three-game road trip that featured three comeback wins by a combined ten points. The Zags are due for a less stressful game, and they’ll look for one against the 1-3 Pilots.

Meet the opponent

Portland Pilots, 9-10 (1-3 WCC), KenPom #164, NET #186

Portland picked up their first conference win of the season last night, outlasting San Francisco, 92-87. It was a good rebound win for the Pilots, who got smoked in their first three matchups against LMU, BYU, and Saint Mary’s. It’s been a bit of a disappointing start to WCC play for Shantay Legans’ squad, who showed promise in the non-conference slate, highlighted by the win over Villanova at the Phil Knight Invitational.

The trio of Tyler Robertson, Kristian Sjolund, and Moses Wood account for most of Portland’s scoring. They combined for 64 points in the win over USF, and each average 13+ points per game. All three stand 6-6 or taller and should provide some intriguing matchups for the Zags’ wings and bigs. Wood in particular will be a challenge, as the 6-8 forward shoots over 44% from three.

What to watch for

The other bigs

Anton Watson and Ben Gregg both did their thing against BYU. Watson’s 14 first-half points and clutch defense helped seal the win, and Gregg had another solid outing with ten and six. Their presence and performance have solidified Gonzaga’s frontcourt depth, something that will be tested against Portland’s skilled front line.

Transition offense

Portland, like Gonzaga, wants to run. They rank top 50 in KenPom’s adjusted tempo, averaging over 70 possessions per 40 minutes. It should still favor the Zags if things turn into a track meet, as the Pilots are 238 in defensive efficiency. Inconsistent defense has been a struggle at times this year, but if the Zags can take advantage of some stops and get out and run, they should be looking good.

Ball security

This one’s pretty simple. The Zags nearly let one slip away in Provo, and turnovers were a big reason why. They had 16 of them against the Cougars, most of which featured sloppy ball handling. Portland has shown they can play with the big boys, so the Zags can’t make too many careless mistakes.