Gonzaga has developed quite a rivalry recently with the opponent that handed it a loss in its latest game, even though the schools are separated by 2,700 miles. The next team it faces, located one state away, hasn’t had any luck against the Bulldogs.
After a heartbreaking overtime loss to second-ranked Connecticut, No. 7 Gonzaga will look to bounce back Tuesday in Spokane by winning its 11th straight over Portland State.
The Bulldogs and UConn first met in the 1999 NCAA tournament, with Gonzaga gaining national notoriety for the first time with a 67-62 regional final loss to the Huskies, the eventual national champion.
The schools also split meetings in 2005 and ’07, games that were decided by a total of five points. The Bulldogs and Huskies met again Saturday in Seattle and provided what may have been the best game yet in the cross country rivalry.
Gonzaga led by 11 with 12 minutes to play before UConn stormed back, tying the score on an A.J. Price 3-pointer with 7.8 seconds left and going on to win 88-83 in overtime.
“When it went in, the first thing that came to mind was ‘Oh my God,’” said Austin Daye, one of three Bulldogs starters to foul out.
Despite the devastating loss, coach Mark Few wasn’t all that upset.
“I’m proud. Our guys played their tails off,” Few said. “We used everybody we possibly had in the whole gym out there and had the craziest lineups we’ve never, ever had in practice.
“That’s what they can do to you. They can really physically take it out of you and put a lot of foul pressure on you.”
Gonzaga’s Micah Downs and Matt Bouldin also fouled out, and leading scorer Josh Heytvelt was limited to 28 minutes because of foul trouble.
Heytvelt (15.6 points per game), Daye (13.0) and Bouldin (10.9) are the Bulldogs’ leading scorers, but Gonzaga was reminded in the loss to UConn that it has another player capable of a big game.
Sophomore Steven Gray came in averaging 7.3 points in his last four games, but led the way with 23 against the Huskies. That was Gray’s best game since scoring a team-high 21 in the team’s first-round NCAA tournament loss to Davidson last spring.
Point guard Jeremy Pargo had 16 points for Gonzaga on Saturday, but he also had five turnovers. When Pargo doesn’t take care of the ball, the Bulldogs struggle, as he committed 12 total turnovers in the Bulldogs’ two losses this season while giving it up 13 times in their eight wins.
Pargo is averaging 10.1 points and 2.7 turnovers in Gonzaga’s 33 wins the past two seasons, compared to 16.0 points and 4.6 turnovers in their 10 losses.
Portland State (8-3) and Gonzaga have met five times in the past seven years - most recently in 2006 - with the Bulldogs winning by an average of 23.6 points.
The Vikings boast one of the most balanced lineups in the nation, with five players averaging between 10.9 and 12.1 points.
Lately, sophomore forward Phil Nelson has been stepping up. He’s averaging 14.3 points in his last three games, and had 16 in 24 minutes Saturday in a 72-45 win over Montana.
Senior guard Jeremiah Dominguez is averaging 16.0 ppg over his last three contests, shooting 55.0 percent (11-of-20) from 3-point range.
Portland State is 0-11 all-time against ranked opponents, most recently falling 85-61 to eventual national champion Kansas in the first round of last season’s NCAA tournament.
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