The Zags didn't need anything out of the ordinary to happen to dismantle the No. 7 Pilots. Their best players stepped up and played big games. West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year Eric McClellan did his usual work on defense but also found time to chip in 26 points (his most in a Gonzaga uniform). All-WCC First Team selections Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer added 24 and 13 respectively.
While the Zags will no doubt be happy to have advanced one step closer to the NCAA Tournament they were dealt a blow tonight.
Ryan Edwards, a 7-foot-1 reserve big man forced into the main back-up role after Przemek Karnowski (also 7-foot-1) went down for the season back in December, did not play in the second half due to a leg injury. Gonzaga was a top-ten team in the preseason thanks to their vaunted frontcourt — on opening day their roster had the seventh tallest average height in the nation at 78.7 inches, per KenPom.
For the final 20 minutes of the game they were playing with just two available bigs, Sabonis and Wiltjer. While it's a blow, no doubt, if Edwards can't go on Monday against BYU, it wasn't much of an issue tonight. Mark Few's post game remarks included the usual coach speak of needing to get through it and waiting to see what the issue is with Edwards. But he also let out a glimmer of confidence about his front court issues.
"Domas gets mad when I take him out anyway," Few said.
Gonzaga's injury bug was an issue in the second half. The Pilots got hit almost immediately. Like, 22 seconds into the game when senior guard Bryce Pressley (16 points) took an elbow to the head and was taken out of the game, bleeding from above his left eye.
It looked awful, but the senior came back within two minutes of game time and ended up leading the team in scoring in his collegiate finale.
The nation's leaders in three point percentage defense were far too much for the trigger happy Pilots, and held them to a paltry 35.5% from the field in the first half. By the time Portland got its act together offensively it was too late, and they could do little more than trade buckets with the Zags.
With the win Gonzaga advances to the WCC Tournament semifinal round for the 19th consecutive season and will face No. 3 BYU on Monday at approximately 8:30 p.m. Pacific on ESPN2. Portland's season, with a record of 12-20, has come to an end.