PORTLAND – The eight-time defending West Coast Conference champion Gonzaga Bulldogs took a big step toward a ninth straight title Thursday.
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 lead 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.
Bouldin and Portland’s Nik Raivio engaged in a shootout in the first half. Bouldin had 18 points and Raivio 17 as the Pilots took a 43-42 lead at halftime.
Gonzaga kept better track of Raivio, who went scoreless in the second half until a layup in the closing seconds, and didn’t slow down at the offensive end.
The Bulldogs scored the first seven points of the half and followed that 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.
Gonzaga sealed it with a 7-0 spurt, fueled by Steven Gray’s dunk, Bouldin’s driving bank shot and Austin Daye’s three-point play, to take a commanding 72-58 lead with 8:35 left. The Pilots, who made 11 of 26 3-pointers, got within eight, but buckets by Daye, Heytvelt and Bouldin gave GU a comfortable lead.
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