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#23 Gonzaga Survives Second Scare From Portland

The Pilots were out for their first season sweep of the Zags since the 1989-90 season. For a while, that looked possible. Also, a battle between former high school teammates.

Sam Dower and David Stockton played like seniors tonight.
Sam Dower and David Stockton played like seniors tonight.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Neither team came out of the gate hot. It was eight degrees outside at game time, so maybe the Kennel needed some time to warm up. It did, at least for the Zags, when Angel Nunez checked in just before the 17:00 mark. He had a big slam dunk and-one in his first minute that put the Zags up 5-4.

From there, Gonzaga caught fire. The Zags offense lit up the Pilots to the tune of an 11-0 run over four minutes. With the under-12 media timeout looming at the next dead ball, Eric Reveno was forced to call a stop-the-bleeding timeout.

It was this kind of night for the Zags. Kyle Dranginis stole the ball and had what looked to be an easy fast break bucket. Bryce Pressley poked the ball away from behind, however. It shot up out of Dranginis' grasp, off the backboard and fell right in front of a trailing Gary Bell, who put up an uncontested lay-up.

Back to back threes from David Stockton at 6:17 and 5:18. Gonzaga is one of the nation's best three point shooting teams, sixth in three point field goal percentage. But, David Stockton (8-37 on the year), isn't a big part of that attack. Once again, it was that kind of night for the Zags.

Well, it would turn out to be that kind of half.

The Pilots opened the second half on a 17-5 run, fueled by three pointers.

Late in the run the Zags defense began to assert itself. Przemek Karnowski had a two block possession at the 16 minute mark. Both times he kept the ball in play and, on the second block, recovered the loose ball. Then, Portland looked about ready to fall apart.

Already in foul trouble, Portland picked up a bunch of fouls. Kevin Bailey got his 4th at 15:35. Thomas van der Mars, who had spent most of the first half on the bench with two fouls, picked up his fourth with 13:43 to play. With that, the Pilots lost their momentum.

The break was temporary, however, as the Pilots' bench came through after being absent in the first half.

Bobby Sharp hit a three to make it 51 all at 7:12. On the next possession, Bryce Pressley hit a three that gave Portland its first lead since being up 4-2 in the early going. A Volodymyr Gerun jumper then pushed the Pilots' lead to four.

Gonzaga was lackadaisical throughout the second half, until senior Sam Dower stepped up like only a senior can. He scored six straight points between the 5:06 and 4:02, allowing the Zags to reclaim the lead. Putting his versatility on display, Dower scored on a long jumper, free throws and a lay in.

After the final media timeout, Kevin Bailey went to the line and tied the game at 58.

Gonzaga starts two seniors and both came through in the clutch. First it was Dower, then after the Bailey free throws, it was David Stockton. He went on a 5-0 run, from the line and from three, to make it 63-58 with 2:25 remaining.

Over the final two minutes it was a battle of styles. Portland, led by its frontcourt duo of Thomas van der Mars and Ryan Nicholas, kept cutting into the lead. But Gonzaga, led by Stockton and fellow guard Kevin Pangos, used three point basket (and the one point basket once Portland began fouling) to keep a five point lead.

Spokane native Ryan Nicholas, making his final trip to the Kennel, finished with 15 points and 15 assists in a losing effort. Nicholas played alongside David Stockton at Gonzaga Prep.