Game #9-308: Gonzaga Bulldogs at Portland PilotsJanuary 17, 2013 10:00 pm
Here on this side of the Red Line there's not many chances to see one of the top 10 teams in the nation, much less in your home arena. Gonzaga comes to Portland every season and it's sold out every season, but this time the Bulldogs were ranked 8th in the polls. Now I'm one of those fans who thinks the polls aren't much more than a popularity contest, but with so many members of the media saying this is the best GU team ever and a Final Four contender, I was definitely watching them with a little more interest than usual. And my interest in Gonzaga is high since they're the closest WCC team to Portland and the Northwest school the rest of the country pays the most attention to. If you're here you already know about their long list of conference championships and NCAA tournament runs, and also about how Mark Few has turned down other schools time and again to stay in Spokane and make his team a national power. For purposes of this site they had been neither above nor below the Red Line by virtue of the size of their basketball budget until now. There are no teams excepted from the current definition of the Red Line so Gonzaga is, for better or worse, one of us now.
Right from the start the Bulldogs showed they were better than the Pilots. Any hopes of a big Portland run to start the game were blown away when, with the score at 5-2 to GU, Kevin Pangos scored the next 11 points by himself. Gonzaga 16, Portland 2, and the Pilots wouldn't recover from that. Pangos and teammates David Stockton and Gary Bell showed how skilled the Bulldog guards were at distributing the ball, finishing with 10 assists between the three of them. Pangos had the big night on the scoreboard, with 14 points and 4 superhoops. Their guards are all good ballhandlers and run their offense well. When a teammate is cutting to the basket or is open at the three point arc they see him and, more importantly, get him the ball with a good pass. The Pilots focused on defending the inside in the first half. Portland actually is a decent defensive team, especially inside, but there are too many Bulldogs who can shoot from the outside. Gonzaga made 8 threes in the first half while only allowing Portland to make 9 field goals of any kind. Portland fought back to 31-26 with 1:47 left in the half but that was as close as they came and were down 26-36 at the half.
In the second half, having established the outside game, GU turned inside. Junior forward Kelly Olynyk went to work after missing much of the first half with foul trouble. He scored 17 points in the second half and 21 for the game. His final stat line also included 8 rebounds in just 19 minutes of action. Senior Elias Harris added 10 points and 9 rebounds. Several things impressed me about them. First, the Pilots don't get dominated in rebounding often. The Bulldogs were so much stronger and more athletic than the Pilots, however, and got 34 to Portland's 19. The Bulldogs were able to gain an advantageous rebounding position more often than not, even when on offense. Portland has enough trouble getting into and staying on a good run on offense, and being limited to one shot on most possessions made their job even harder. I was also impressed with the way Olynyk and Harris get into positions that give them easy shots, often dunks and layups. Credit for this also has to go to the rest of the team, who knows where the big men will be and gets them the ball there. All the easy baskets helped Gonzaga run away in the end with a 71-49 win, with the last Pilot points coming at the 7:23 mark. Yes, that's right. I checked the play-by-play. No points in the last 7:23.
It was only the first conference home game (and I've also seen the Saint Mary's game as of writing this), but there's no doubt in my mind this is the best Gonzaga team in my time following Pilot basketball, which is going on about 20 years. They have phenomenal players at each position, they all know their roles, and they all do what the team needs at the time. And to illustrate their depth, look at the stats from their loss to Butler two days after this game (and I sincerely hope a TMM writer was there). Pangos went from 14 points in the Portland game to just 5 against Butler. That wasn't a problem, however, because forward Sam Dower scored 20 against Butler. He scored 2 against Portland. Opponents can't just shut down one GU player because almost any of them can step up at any time. Even those who don't play often can make an impact. Drew Barham came off the bench against the Pilots to hit three superhoops in the first half to cut off a possible Portland run. Those were his only points of the night, but they came at important times.
During the life of this site several teams came from below the Line to make the Final Four. However, should Gonzaga join George Mason, Butler, and VCU in that group I don't think it would come as quite a shock to college basketball fans. Over the past decade Gonzaga has, built itself into a program that's recognized around the country. They have a long way to go and many games to play, but I wouldn't mind being able to say I saw a Final Four team, and if it can't be the Pilots, it may as well be someone from their conference.
GONZAGA 71, at PORTLAND 49
GONZAGA 17-1 (4-0) -- E. Harris 5-16 0-0 10; K. Pangos 5-9 0-0 14; D. Stockton 0-3 1-3 1; G. Bell Jr. 1-2 0-0 3; K. Olynyk 8-9 5-6 21; M. Hart 2-4 0-0 4; S. Dower 1-5 0-0 2; P. Karnowski 0-3 0-0 0; G. Landry Edi 2-3 2-2 7; D. Barham 3-4 0-0 9; K. Dranginis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-58 8-11 71.
PORTLAND 8-11 (1-3) -- D. Rodgers 2-6 0-0 4; R. Nicholas 2-5 2-2 7; K. Bailey 7-9 2-5 16; R. Barker 1-3 0-0 2; O. Reinfelds 4-8 2-2 12; T. van der Mars 0-1 0-0 0; K. Thieleke 0-5 2-2 2; B. Pressley 1-2 0-0 2; T. Riley 0-0 0-0 0; J. Bailey 0-1 0-0 0; J. Ehlers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-40 8-11 45.
Three-point goals: GONZ 9-21 (D. Barham 3-4; S. Dower 0-1; E. Harris 0-1; M. Hart 0-2; D. Stockton 0-2; G. Bell 1-2; G. Landry Edi 1-1; K. Pangos 4-8), PORT 3-9 (R. Barker 0-1; D. Rodgers 0-1; R. Nicholas 1-1; K. Bailey 0-1; B. Pressley 0-1; O. Reinfelds 2-4); Rebounds: GONZ 34 (E. Harris 9), PORT 19 (R. Nicholas 8); Assists: GONZ 13 (D. Stockton 4), PORT 7 (O. Reinfelds 3); Total Fouls -- GONZ 15, PORT 16; Fouled Out: GONZ-None; PORT-None.