From their white jerseys, to the heavy contingent of fans in the arena wearing apparel with a Bulldog logo, it felt like the Gonzaga Bulldogs were playing a home game in a 89-66 win over the Portland Pilots. In fact, if not for the purple seats and the graphics on the court indicating otherwise, one might not know that the Zags were in Portland.
The outcome kept both programs as the bookends of the WCC standings. Gonzaga (5-0) remains undefeated in WCC play, while the Pilots (0-5) are...defeated.
With former teammate and current Portland Trailblazer, Zach Collins, looking on, a balanced Gonzaga attack overcame a scrappy effort from the Pilots. Seven Bulldogs scored in double figures led by 17 points from Rui Hachimura and 14 from Zach Norvell. Brandon Clarke, Josh Perkins, and Corey Kispert each scored 11 points, while Killian Tillie and Geno Crandall each added 10 points off the bench. Portland’s Marcus Shaver led all scorers with 18 points.
This game will never be remembered as a beautiful and exciting affair. While the Zags did play some really good basketball in (brief) stretches, not even the presence of Collins could help the long stretches of disjointed and lackluster play.
The opening minutes featured the teams exchanging baskets in between misses and turnovers before Gonzaga gained some separation with a pair of threes from Kispert. Portland played a lot of 2-3 zone on defense, so Mark Few opted to roll out the jumbo lineup of Tillie, Rui, and Clarke to great effect. With Tillie’s skillset parked in the middle of Portland’s zone, the Zags began to dissect the Pilots defense with ease and put the game to bed midway through the first half.
While Gonzaga controlled the boards and the offense looked good at times (a handful of sweet interior passes will paper over a lot of cracks), the defense took a step back. The Pilots, who entered this game with nary a positive offensive statistic to their name, finished the contest shooting 48% from the field and also got to the free throw line for seven more attempts than their counterparts.
Though it wasn’t exactly a basketball clinic, Gonzaga handled its business on the busiest day (150 games) of the college basketball calendar. A day that saw other top ranked teams struggle or lose. When the polls come out on Monday, the Zags might very well find themselves a little higher up the rung.