Taco watch was on inside The Kennel just five minutes into the game and a hungry fan base was rewarded by the hot shooting Gonzaga Bulldogs who beat the Portland Pilots 104-72.
Gonzaga saw six different scorers reach double figures, with Hunter Sallis just missing out with 7 though he was excellent once again. Andrew Nembhard led all scorers with 22 points to go with 4 assists, followed by Anton Watson and Drew Timme with 16 apiece, Julian Strawther with 14, Chet Holmgren with 12 (he notably only attempted 3s, finish 4-6 from the arc), and Rasir Bolton with 11.
The Zags were so hot from the three-point line to start the game—four of the five starters hit a three inside the first three and a half minutes—that their once-maligned long distance shooting felt like it was a complete figment of my imagination.
Unfortunately for the Pilots, the onslaught from beyond the arc never really stopped as Gonzaga went on to set a new record for made threes in a game at The Kennel with 18 makes on 41 attempts.
It’s the first year of the Shantay Legans era in Portland and he certainly has them playing better, and perhaps more importantly, feeling more confident, but giving Gonzaga a scare—let alone beating them in The Kennel—is still a bridge too far for the Pilots considering they didn’t even win a conference game last season. Their arrow is pointing up, though Gonzaga’s is too (much to the rest of the WCC’s dismay).
Portland played well during the opening minutes, but by the second media timeout of the game the Zags had already built a double digit lead and they were off to the races from there en route to a 28-48 halftime lead.
Watson, in particular, continued his excellent play over the last few weeks by producing a casually perfect first half with 14 points on 5-5 shooting from the field off the bench, which of course makes it an even more remarkable performance.
To their credit, the Pilots, didn’t pack it up and head home during the break. They emerged from the locker room in the second half looking to give their hosts a physical 20 minutes to earn their win. They succeeded in that effort, and kept pace with Gonzaga for an extended period which surely frustrated Mark Few if his sideline gesticulations were any indication.
Gonzaga’s second half defense was fairly indifferent which perhaps emboldened Portland as they found greater success on the offensive end of the floor. That success turned the second half into a chippy and physical affair, which perhaps is a sign of things to come from a Pilots team that hasn’t shown much fight in the last few years.
The Zags will hit the road next week with a visit to San Diego serving as the appetizer for their date in Provo next Saturday. BYU appears to have lost a bit of its mojo this week and will be looking to get back on track by knocking off a Gonzaga that seems to be firing on all cylinders. We’ll find out soon enough if that will continue beyond the friendly confines of the McCarthey Athletic Center.