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Gonzaga's Second Half Sinks Pilots in Spokane

A dominant front-court and the program's all-time three point leader pushed the Zags to a 64-46 victory over northwest rival Portland.

Domantas Sabonis (11) and Kyle Dranginis (3) both come off the bench for the third ranked Zags.
Domantas Sabonis (11) and Kyle Dranginis (3) both come off the bench for the third ranked Zags.
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Pilots are the only team in the WCC with size up front to match the Zags. Yet, both Domantas Sabonis (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Przemek Karnowski (10 points, 11 rebounds) finished with double-doubles for Gonzaga.

A 23-3 run over nearly 13 minutes in the second half pushed the Zags to 10-0 in West Coast Conference play and a 21-1 record overall.

It wasn't always so one-sided, however.

Out of the gate, and heading into the locker room, both teams were bucking the national trend of low-scoring, snail's pace affairs.

Four possessions into the game and Gonzaga had 10 points, Portland had eight. Threes were falling, bigs were banging in the post it looked like the sellout crowd at the Kennel was in for a great display of offensive basketball.

Then, Kevin Pangos hit the 289th three pointer of his career — which gave him sole possession of first place all-time at Gonzaga in that category — the crowd went wild and sucked all the energy out of the arena. Or something, because both teams went ice cold.

Gonzaga missed eight straight, over five minutes, following that Pangos record-breaker. Portland answered immediately with a Thomas van der Mars lay up but then went cold as well. One of eight over more than six minutes for the Pilots.

Little used freshman Philipp Hartwich scored his only points of the game with 4:13 to play in the half. Portland took its first, and only, lead of the game on that bucket. It was 21-20, advantage to the visitors, when Gonzaga found the spark it had to start the game.

11 points to close the half for the Zags after that Hartwich lay up. Portland scored just four giving the Zags a six point advantage at the break.

The Zags are always an elite offensive unit. This season is no different as they rank third in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy. What makes this year's Gonzaga team elite in general is their defense.

During the 23-3 run mentioned earlier, the Pilots scored only from the free throw line. Between a Volodymyr Gerun bucket with 17:15 to play and a Bobby Sharp three with 4:33 left the Pilots missed 15 field goals, committed seven turnovers and saw the Zags' lead grow to 26 points.

Mop up time came and the Pilots pulled eight points closer than they were at the end of that run, but still trailed by 18 points when the final horn sounded.

Gonzaga and Portland, travel partners in WCC play, played on Thursday rather than the usual Saturday date for travel partners because the Zags host Memphis in non-conference action on Saturday. The Pilots get the weekend off before facing San Francisco next Thursday.