Zags Stave Off Pilot Upset, Beat Portland for 13th Straight Time
Jan. 9, 2010
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -Matt Bouldin had 20 points and nine assists and No. 19 Gonzaga beat Portland for the 13th straight time, 81-78 on Saturday night.
The Bulldogs (12-3) led by as many as 13 points, but allowed the Pilots to close to 81-78 with less than a minute to go on Jared Stohl's 3-pointer.
Bol Kong missed a pair of free throws with 4.6 seconds left, but Stohl's 3-pointer to tie it hit the rim and bounced off as time ran out.
"I saw his last look, and frankly, I don't think he saw the rim," Portland coach Eric Reveno said. "He just let it fly and it was pretty impressive."
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few also praised the junior's effort.
"I thought we defended well in the first half, then we lost Stohl," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "He just stared us down and did what he does, which is shoot threes."
Freshman Elias Harris had 18 points for Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference opener for both teams.
Stohl had 18 points for the Pilots (9-6).
Boosted by an enthusiastic purple-clad student section, the Pilots kept pressuring the Bulldogs. Stohl made a 3-pointer to narrow it to 53-51 with 11:10 to go.
Gonzaga responded a 9-1 run capped by Bouldin's layup that made it 62-52 with 7:29 left. Kong's 3-pointer that made it 68-55 with about 5 minutes to go appeared to put it out of reach.
Portland again rallied, closing to 70-66 when Smeulders hit a pair of free throws, before making their scrappy push in the final minute.
"We've been in close games like that many, many times this year already," Bouldin said. "Once we focus on what we need to do down the stretch, we usually get it done."
Few said he knew it would be a tough game.
"We knew it was going to be a hard fought game and nothing was going to come easy down here. I think Portland is a heck of a team, I've always thought that. I thought they were last year and now they are a year older and a year more experienced," Few said. "They have been able to add some intricate sets they didn't have last year and they can really shoot the ball, especially in this gym. For us to hang in there and hold them off on the road is really a big step for us."
Gonzaga has won 26 of thge last 27 against the Pilots, who have not defeated the Bulldogs in Portland since 1996.
Portland opened with the slim lead early but Gonzaga pulled ahead 10-7 on Harris' long jumper and a dunk. The Bulldogs extended the lead to 19-9 on Kelly Olynyk's layup.
Portland recovered when Stohl's 3-pointer got the Pilots to 30-26. Luke Sikma's reverse layup made it 30-28 with less than five minutes to go before the half. Sikma is the son of seven-time NBA All-Star Jack Sikma, now an assistant with the Houston Rockets.
As quickly as Portland got back in the game, Gonzaga pulled away. Bouldin hit back-to-back long jumpers to make it 42-32 and the Bulldogs led 42-36 at the half.
Few said Bouldin had another solid effort for the Bulldogs. "He was phenomenal. He had nine assists and no turnovers. That's exactly what you want your lead guard to do on the road," Few said of his senior leaders. "We did a great job of finding him at the end of the game and putting him on the free throw line."
The Bulldogs, looking for their 10th straight WCC regular-season title, were coming off an 85-83 victory over Illinois. Gonzaga's only losses this season were to No. 10 Michigan State, No. 5 Duke and Wake Forest.
Portland, coming off a 67-57 victory over Army, has not defeated Gonzaga since Feb. 19, 2003, a 72-68 upset in Spokane.
Portland Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard was at the game at the Chiles Center.
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