Back with a day-after post from Gonzaga’s 87-75 win over Portland that in many ways resembled its 60-48 win over San Diego last Monday.
--The Zags seemed to be on their way to a comfortable road victory, then the opposing point guard got hot, the crowd got involved and suddenly Gonzaga was in a scrap. San Diego made in interesting. Portland made it quite interesting, getting within five before the Zags pulled away in the final 1:35.
GU did a nice job on PG Alec Wintering in the first half but he put together a big second half, much like San Diego’s Johnny Dee did over the final 10 minutes last Monday. Portland’s bigs began to dominate the offensive glass as GU couldn’t replicate its first-half intensity.
“They’re a good team and they’re at home, you expect them to have some sort of run in them,” coach Mark Few said. “And we obliged by giving them a lot of second-chance points and not keeping with our defensive assignments like the first 30 minutes.”
GU hasn’t been able to deliver the knockout blow in its last four games, winning by 13 over Cal Poly, by 7 over BYU, by 12 over San Diego and by 12 over Portland.
“I don’t know why that’s happening,” guard Kevin Pangos said, “but we’ve got fix it because eventually were not going to be able to hold it. That’s got to change.”
--At San Diego, it was the behind-the-back pass. At Portland, it was the 3-pointer from 23 feet.
What’s next for 7-1 center Przemek Karnowski? The big man has made the most entertaining play in GU’s last two games. He enjoyed last night’s 3-ball because it came with his parents in attendance. They’ll be on hand for this week’s two home games before they leave for Poland.
If you’ve watched him in pre-game warm-ups or pre/post practice, Karnowski launches his share of 3-pointers.
“He shoots those all the time in practice,” Pangos said. From across the locker room, Karnowski finished the sentence: “And they go in.”
Pangos, known for his long-distance accuracy, added: “I’ve seen him make a ton. He just let it fly and it was hilarious.”
--More and more, Gonzaga’s offense is running through Karnowski, who has shown he can score on post-ups, his free-throw shooting is improving and he’s an accomplished passer. He was only credited with two assists last night, but he seemed to have a couple of hockey assists or dishes that led to teammates getting to the FT line.
“They went zone a couple times and Shem did a really nice job of throwing out of those double teams or congestion,” Few said. “Kevin did good job moving to an open area and he found him couple times. I thought that was big.
“And for long stretches, Shem was the one guy giving us some sort of presence on the defensive boards.”
Portland outrebounded GU 17-11 in the second half and finished with a 16-12 edge in second-chance points.
“We need to go back and start hitting during practice,” Karnowski said. “That’s what coaches expect us to do. I take it on me, I didn’t do a good job with that. It’s on me, the entire team and even the guards coming down, but I didn’t do a good job of pursuing the ball.”
--Kyle Wiltjer struggled in his return to his hometown. The junior forward didn’t score in the first half. He finished with eight second-half points, including a key basket on a nice spin move with 6:16 left, but he made just 3 of 10 FG attempts and was 0 of 3 on 3-pointers.
He played just 21 minutes. Domas Sabonis was more effective at both ends, finishing with five points, six boards, one block, one assist and one steal.
“No, it was just another game,” said Wiltjer, when asked if playing in front of family and friends added any pressure. “We were just lucky to come out with a win.”
Said Few: “Yes and no (it was one of those nights for Wiltjer). He picked up some quick fouls. He has to work hard to play preventive defense instead of waiting for (the opponent) to get in an area where he’s susceptible to getting fouls.
“The thing with this team is we have so many options and sometimes it’s just somebody else’s night. They came in pretty dialed into ‘Wiltj’ tonight, but he had a couple looks that he’s been making.”
--The Pilots are just 1-2 in conference, but they could become a team nobody wants to face come tournament time, particularly if wing Kevin Bailey returns from a foot injury. He said he’s getting better and he hopes to play in Portland’s next game.
The Pilots have three capable bigs, an outstanding point guard and Bailey adds athleticism and scoring. Bobby Sharp, Jason Todd and Bryce Pressley are solid options. Portland has a nice inside-outside mix, rebounds well and generally takes care of the ball.
“I’ve thought all along this would be a good year for them,” Few said.
STATS OF NOTE
--Portland was stung by so-so FT shooting – 13 of 21 (62 percent).
--GU was 23 of 28 at the FT line.
--Gary Bell Jr. was on his way to big offensive night but foul trouble limited him to 23 minutes. He finished with 12 points.
--Karnowski and Pangos combined to go 15 of 20 from the field.
--Karnowski missed the only other 3-point attempt of his career.
--Three GU starters --Wiltjer (23 of 56, 41.1%), Pangos (30 of 65, 46%) and Bell (24 of 59, 40.7%) -- are shooting above 40 percent on 3-pointers (well, four, counting Karnowski’s 1 of 1!). The trio has attempted 180 of GU’s 267 3-pointers.
--Wintering finished with 20 points, eight assists and zero turnovers. He played all 40 minutes.
--The Zags shot 57 percent from the field. Portland hit 53 percent in the second half and finished at 46.7.
Portland coach Eric Reveno: “I sat with the coaches (at halftime) and I couldn’t think of one thing we did well. We didn’t do anything at a level that can win us the game. So let’s take a mulligan. I felt like in the second half, we were doing some good things at times.”
Wiltjer on the rebounding: “We weren’t securing rebounds in there. We luckily got some when it mattered and got a couple baskets but we really want to improve in those areas so teams can’t come back.”
Karnowski: “We have to work this week (to) play with the same intensity all game. We had the lead by 15, 20 points and we kind of relaxed and let them come back.”
Wiltjer: “They’re a tough team. They have a lot of size, I think that helps a lot to play us. Most of the game we were up 15, 20. We just have to do a better job closing them out.”