A flurry of wintry weather outside and Gonzaga buckets inside the McCarthey Athletic Center grounded the Portland Pilots in a 103-57 win for the Bulldogs. It was a game that went exactly as expected, with the Pilots simply lacking the horses to keep up with the Zags who eclipsed the century mark for the sixth time this season.
It would have been a perfect night if not for a knee scare from Johnathan Williams who banged knees with Portland’s JoJo Walker late in the first half that sent him straight to the locker room. Williams sat for the remainder of the game, hopefully for precautionary purposes, as he really wasn’t needed for this one.
Silas Melson led all scorers with 23 points, though Rui Hachimura wasn’t too far behind with 20 points (8-10 FG). Killian Tillie (15 points) and Josh Perkins (13 points) also finished the night in double figures, but it was manager-turned-walkon Brian Pete who got the biggest cheers of the night when he drained a baseline jumper in the waning moments of the game to secure the first points of his collegiate career, and to set off a raucous celebration on the sideline and in the stands.
The Pilots played Gonzaga fairly evenly to the first media timeout, but that was as close as they would be for the rest of the night as Hachimura’s entry into the game extinguished any faint hopes for an upset.
Hachimura has feasted on WCC foes, and that continued against Portland as the Pilots had no matchup for him. Basketball has certainly looked like an easy game for the sophomore forward over the last few weeks as he continues to make strides in his game. The Zags spread the wealth around, however, with Tillie making light work of Portland’s interior defense while being a highly disruptive presence on the defensive end.
Melson, who had a quiet offensive weekend during last weekend’s southern California swing, exploded in a big way as he set the world on fire from the three-point line (7-12). It was a night of new career highs in 3-pointers made (previous high was 5) and scoring (previous high 21) for the senior from Portland. If Dan Dickau wasn’t on broadcasting duty at LMU he would have been sweating his single-game record for three-pointers made (9). Perhaps he sensed a disturbance in the force anyway, and sweating ensued.
The gulf in talent between the two teams was massive, as the Pilots are in the midst of dark times with Terry Porter close to ground zero of building his program. Even when Gonzaga emptied its bench, there was still talent to be seen. Jeremy Jones converted a difficult three-point play on a contorted finish in the paint, while Jacob Larsen and Jesse Wade both highlighted what’s in store for the WCC in the future. Every single Gonzaga player that entered the game, scored, as Jack Beach and Brian Pete both got on the score sheet.
Gonzaga will get some tougher battles over the next two games in a quick trip to San Francisco on Saturday, before Saint Mary’s comes to town on Thursday. Hopefully we’ll see Williams on the floor and healthy for both contests.