Pilots face tall task in clash with second-ranked Zags
Spokane, WA (Sports Network) - With yet another West Coast Conference title in the bag, the second-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs turn their attention to Saturday's regular-season finale against the visiting Portland Pilots.
Portland comes in eight games under .500 (11-19), and it has won only four of its 15 WCC bouts. The Pilots dropped a 75-63 decision to Santa Clara last Saturday, meaning the team has alternated wins and losses in its last six games. Portland will either be the No. 8 or No. 9 seed in the upcoming West Coast Conference Tournament, depending on the outcome of games this weekend.
Gonzaga claimed its 16th WCC regular-season title by knocking off BYU on the road on Thursday night, 70-65. The Bulldogs are a perfect 15-0 in conference, 28-2 overall, and they have won 11 straight games. The Zags will be the top seed in the WCC tourney, and they are hoping to secure a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament as well. Gonzaga is poised to potentially earn its first No. 1 national ranking following current No. 1 Indiana's loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs own a 90-65 lead in the all-time series with Pilots, and they've won the last 17 meetings, including a 71-49 rout on the road earlier this season. Portland last beat Gonzaga on Feb. 19, 2003 in a 72-68 final in Spokane.
Portland has struggled to put points on the board this season, averaging a mere 61.5 ppg in hitting 41.4 percent of its field goal attempts, which includes a 31.3 percent effort from 3-point range. The team boasts a pair of double-digit scorers in Ryan Nicholas (12.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and Kevin Bailey (11.4 ppg), and the latter was one of two Pilots to net more than 10 points in last week's loss to Santa Clara, as he and Thomas van der Mars each finished with 11. Portland shot just 35.9 percent from the floor, while the Broncos were 44.8 percent efficient. Santa Clara dominated the glass, 46-31, and it won the game despite committing 16 turnovers. The draining of 10 3-pointers certainly helped matters for the visitors.
Kelly Olynyk scored 19 points, Gary Bell, Jr. had 15 and Elias Harris chipped in 11 for Gonzaga, which beat BYU by five in Provo two nights ago. The Bulldogs won the game despite shooting a lackluster 41.5 percent from the field, and missing 24 of their 30 3-point tries. They were also off the mark from the foul line (.588), although they did manage to score 20 points there. Holding the Cougars to 36.5 percent field goal efficiency was huge, as was the fact that GU's reserves outscored BYU's, 18-7. Olynyk continues to make his case for WCC Player of the Year, as he is averaging 17.8 points and 6.9 caroms per contest. Harris (14.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Kevin Pangos (11.8 ppg, 3.2 apg) round out the unit's double-digit scorers.
03/02 11:08:35 ET