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Thu., Feb. 5, 2009, 10:38 p.m.

GU takes two-game lead in WCC

Back with my unedited game story from Gonzaga's 93-78 win over Portland on Thursday. Read below for more, and check back Friday morning for a day-after post.

 

By Jim Meehan

Staff writer

PORTLAND – The eight-time defending West Coast Conference champion Gonzaga Bulldogs took a big step Thursday toward a ninth straight title.

Matt Bouldin equaled his career-high with 26 points and Gonzaga’s four other starters reached double figures as the Bulldogs turned back Portland 93-78 in front of a packed house of 4,987 at the Chiles Center.

The 18th-ranked Bulldogs (17-4, 8-0 WCC) won their ninth straight and opened up a two-game cushion over the Pilots (15-8, 6-2), who had a chance to create a first-place tie with a victory. Saint Mary’s joined Portland at 6-2 in the standings.

“The coaches have been telling us all week this was a huge game,” said Bouldin, who had 26 points against Tennessee in January. “We knew it was big because Portland has been playing great basketball.”

Bouldin and Portland’s Nik Raivio put on a shooting display in the first half. Bouldin had 18 points, hitting 5 of 6 field goals, 3 of 4 3-pointers and 5 of 5 free throws. Raivio scored 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 3 of 5 on 3-pointers as the Pilots took a 43-42 lead at half. Portland scored just 50 points in a 17-point loss to GU last month in Spokane.

But the Bulldogs went to a perimeter-conscious zone in the second half and kept better track of Raivio, who was scoreless until a layup in the closing seconds. Meanwhile, Gonzaga didn’t slow down a bit at the offensive end.

“We switched our zone up a little bit, got our feet under us, got some stops and got our break going,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “It was one of our zones that does a way better job on the perimeter and we made some adjustments that allowed us to cheat out on their shooters. Their perimeter shooters are scary.”

The Bulldogs scored the first seven points of the second half and followed that up a few minutes later with an 8-0 run to take a 57-49 lead. Gonzaga threatened to pull away, but the Pilots responded with 3-pointers – three by T.J. Campbell – to stay within striking range.

Portland finished with 11 3-pointers, four by Campbell, but Raivio was 0 of 3 from long range in the second half. When the Pilots worked the ball inside, they didn’t find much room to operate as Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt combined to block four shots.

“I thought those two reacted really well to that,” Few said. “And again, it took the ball out of the perimeter players’ hands.”

Gonzaga used a 7-0 spurt, fueled by Steven Gray’s dunk, Bouldin’s driving bank shot and Daye’s three-point play, to take a commanding 72-58 lead with 8:35 left. The Pilots closed within six, but buckets by Daye, Heytvelt and Bouldin gave Gonzaga a comfortable lead.

Senior guard Jeremy Pargo had a season-high 22 points. Gray added 14 points. Heytvelt and Daye combined for 23 points in the second half. Daye finished with 14 points, 12 boards and three blocks. Heytvelt added 15 points and four rebounds.

“I just took what they gave me,” said Pargo, who hit 2 of 2 3-pointers and had success driving to the basket. “I should have had more. I missed some free throws.”

Gonzaga shot 53.4 percent from the floor, including 8 of 16 3s. Portland dropped off to 37.5 percent in the second half and 42.9 overall.

“Offensively, no complaints,” Few said. “We were very, very efficient with 93 points and only seven turnovers. Bouldin did a phenomenal job in the first half and Jeremy got going in the second half.”

Raivio and Campbell each had 19 points to pace the Pilots.

Gonzaga entertains Memphis at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Spokane Arena.

 




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Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan joined The Spokesman-Review in 1990. Jim is currently a reporter for the Sports Desk and covers Gonzaga University basketball, Spokane Empire football, college volleyball and golf.

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