Gonzaga wins 19th in a row over Portland

The SportsXchange

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Every year, the Gonzaga Bulldogs rave about the improvement of West Coast Conference basketball.

And virtually every year, the Bulldogs promptly go out and beat their WCC brethren senseless.

The eighth-ranked Bulldogs, playing before a sellout crowd that included a healthy contingent of Gonzaga fans, crushed Portland 71-49 Thursday night.

The victory was Gonzaga's 19th in a row over Portland, and the 17th straight vs. the Pilots at the Chiles Center. The Bulldogs, 17-1 overall with eight consecutive wins, tied San Diego atop the WCC standings at 4-0.

Gonzaga breezed despite the fact that starting forwards Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, the team's top two scorers, were each limited to just two points in the first half. Olynyk finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, and Harris produced 10 points and nine rebounds.

"It's the best front court in the country at scoring the basketball," Portland coach Eric Reveno said.

When the Pilots sagged inside on defense in the first half, Kevin Pangos and little-used Drew Barham both nailed three shots from 3-point range. When Portland tried to apply more pressure on the perimeter shooters in the second half, Olynyk and Harris cleaned up down low.

"We forced them to go to plan B (shoot from outside)," Reveno said. "Plan B is almost as good as plan A."

The Bulldogs outrebounded Portland 36-18, including 16-7 on the offensive glass. Gonzaga had a 19-4 advantage in second-chance points. Olynyk, one of the national leaders in field-goal shooting percentage at 67.5, sank 8 of 9 shots from the field.

Kevin Bailey scored 16 points for the Pilots (8-11, 1-3), but Portland's other starters combined for 13 points. The Pilots never recovered from Gonzaga's 16-2 start, fueled by three straight baskets from 3-point range -- none of which touched the rim -- by Pangos. He scored 11 of his 14 points in barely two minutes.

"Obviously, when Kevin makes shots, it opens up a lot of things," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.

Gonzaga has won at least 23 games in each of Few's 13 previous seasons as coach, but none started 17-1. Reveno is one of many observers who believe this may be Gonzaga's best team ever.

"I think so," Reveno said. "It should be in the conversation."

"Don't tell me that," Gonzaga point guard David Stockton said half-jokingly. "It's more poison (discussing it) than anything."

"It's mid-January," Few cautioned. "Who knows?"

Stockton, the son of former Bulldogs and Utah Jazz star John Stockton, is one of the Gonzaga reserves Reveno describes as "scary good." Stockton had just one point Thursday, but he also had four assists, four rebounds, two steals and only one turnover in 26 minutes.

"They have offensive and defensive balance, and inside and outside balance," Reveno said. "They proved that tonight."

NOTES: Gonzaga takes on No. 13 Butler (15-2), winner of 12 consecutive games, on Saturday in Indianapolis. ESPN televises the game at 9 p.m. EST from Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse, where the championship game in the classic basketball movie "Hoosiers" was filmed. "I'm excited," Stockton said. "It should be a fun atmosphere." Butler said leading scorer Rotnei Clarke (16.3) will miss the game with a neck injury. Gonzaga recruited Clarke out of high school and again after the senior guard elected to transfer from Arkansas following the 2010-11 season. ... Louisville transfer Angel Nunez has enrolled at Gonzaga, but he has yet to be cleared for practice because of post-concussion symptoms. The concussion issues prevented Nunez from playing for the top-ranked Cardinals this season. He will be eligible to play for the Bulldogs at the end of fall semester in December. The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Nunez, who might play forward or guard, averaged 2.0 points, 0.7 rebounds and 4.6 minutes for Louisville last season. The New York City native helped Notre Dame Prep (his third school in four years) of Fitchburg, Mass., reach the title game in the 2010-11 national prep tournament. He averaged 13.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots as a senior. Scout.com ranked Nunez the 25th-best college prospect among senior small forwards.
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