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No. 23 Gonzaga beats Portland 71-66

AP - Sports
No. 23 Gonzaga beats Portland 71-66
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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -- Gonzaga coach Mark Few was surprisingly calm after the 23rd-ranked Zags lost all of a 22-point lead and then held on to beat Portland 71-66 on Wednesday night in what could have been the Pilots' second win over his team this season.

''It was a great win,'' Few said. ''Especially when you have to dig yourself out of a hole in the second half.

''I'm proud of our guys,'' he added.

David Stockton, Angel Nunez and Kevin Pangos all scored 13 points as Gonzaga avenged a January loss in Portland.

Sam Dower Jr. added 10 points for Gonzaga (21-3, 11-1 West Coast), which has a three-game lead over BYU and San Francisco in the conference and is seeking its 15th regular season title in the past 17 years.

Ryan Nicholas scored 15 points to lead Portland (13-11, 5-7), which was seeking its first victory in Spokane since 2003.

Gonzaga jumped to a big lead in the first half, but had one of its worst shooting droughts of the season in the second to allow Portland to overtake them. Three-point baskets by Stockton and Pangos and a flurry of free throws lifted the Zags to their seventh consecutive win.

''There was no sneaking up on Gonzaga today after our game down there,'' Portland coach Eric Reveno said. ''We knew we'd get their best shot.''

The score was tied at 5 when Gonzaga went on a 17-1 run, highlighted by two 3-pointers from Drew Barham, to take a 22-6 lead.

Gonzaga, which has won 23 straight home games, made 10 of its first 15 shots, including five 3-pointers.

The Zags didn't stop there. After a Portland basket, Gonzaga put together a 13-5 run to take a 35-13 lead. That run featured another 3-pointer by Barham and consecutive 3-pointers by Stockton.

Gonzaga led 40-23 at halftime, after making 56.5 percent of its shots, including 7 of 11 from 3-point range.

''Things came easy in the first half,'' Few mused.

''We came out super hard in the first half,'' Stockton said. ''In the second half I think we were dead for 15 minutes. Then we played super hard again for 5 minutes and got the win.''

The Pilots opened the second half with an 11-3 run to cut Gonzaga's lead to 43-34. Gonzaga, meanwhile, lost its shooting touch, and led 44-39 with 12 minutes left.

Nicholas hit four consecutive free throws to bring the Pilots within 45-43. Gerard Coleman replied with Gonzaga's first field goal in 10 minutes, ending a string of nine misses.

Bobby Sharp's 3-pointer for Portland tied the score at 51, and Bryce Pressley's 3-pointer 30 seconds later put the Pilots ahead 54-51 with 6:40 left in the game.

Dower hit a field goal and two free throws to tie the score at 56, and then his layup put the Zags ahead 58-56 with 3:38 left.

After an exchange of free throws, Stockton hit a 3-pointer to lift Gonzaga to a 63-58 lead with 2:20 left.

''I felt good today so I let it loose,'' Stockton said.

Thomas van der Mars scored for Portland, but Pangos replied with a 3-pointer to give Gonzaga a 66-60 lead with 1:33 left.

Van der Mars connected on a hook shot for Portland. But Stockton hit one free throw and Pangos two for a 69-62 lead with 25 seconds left.

Nicholas had a putback for Portland, but the Pilots were forced to foul.

''My general take is pretty disappointing,'' Reveno said. ''I think we've proven we can play with a lot of people, including Gonzaga. I'd like for us to be a little more consistent.''

But Reveno was proud that his team came back from a 22-point deficit.

''I've had some other teams that came up here and did not come back like that,'' Reveno said.

Portland upset Gonzaga 82-73 on Jan. 9, a loss that knocked the Zags out of the Top 25. It snapped the Pilots' 20-game losing streak to the Zags.

Gonzaga is third in the nation in field goal percentage (50.4). The Bulldogs shot 46.5 percent for this game, just 35 percent in the second half.

Gonzaga is 132-8 in the McCarthey Athletic Center since it opened in 2004.