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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gonzaga uses Oregon products to pound Portland, expand WCC lead

PORTLAND – The Gonzaga guys with deep ties to Portland made it a long night for the home team.

Kyle Wiltjer, Silas Melson and Domantas Sabonis combined for 51 points and Gonzaga drained 15 3-pointers in a 92-66 rout over Portland in front of packed house of 4,852 Thursday at the Chiles Center.

Gonzaga won its sixth straight to improve to 20-5 overall, 12-2 in the WCC. The Zags have some breathing room at the top of the conference standings after Pepperdine defeated Saint Mary’s, dropping the Gaels to 10-3.

The Pilots, who lost 85-74 to GU in Spokane last month, dropped to 11-16, 5-9.

Wiltjer, who was a McDonald’s All-American while helping Jesuit High claim three state titles, drilled five 3-pointers en route to 21 points. He scored 15 points in the opening half as GU built a 44-35 lead.

“When you’re going through the grind of the season at times it’s tough and you’re exhausted,” Wiltjer said. “Any time you get to go home and see your family, you forget about everything and it gives you that extra boost.”

Melson, who led Jefferson High to a state title, chipped in 13 points and four assists. The sophomore guard did a nice job defensively on Pilots point guard Alec Wintering, who scored 11 points, eight below his average. After Gonzaga broke Portland’s press, Melson took a pass from Wiltjer for a two-handed dunk that extended Gonzaga’s lead to 81-55 with 6:45 remaining.

“It was homecoming, you have to show up for your friends and family. Once a year (in Portland) you have to make the most of it,” Melson said. “That (dunk) was in my head the whole game, just give me a two-hand dunk and I was going to take advantage.”

Domantas Sabonis, who was born in Portland when his father Arvydas was a star center for the Trail Blazers, posted his seventh double-double in the last eight games and his 15th of the season. The sophomore forward powered for 17 points and 11 rebounds. Afterward, Sabonis greeted a large group of Lithuanians who attended the game.

Kyle Dranginis made four 3-pointers and scored 16 points. Eric McClellan had 14 points and Josh Perkins added eight points and nine assists.

Portland entered the game as one of the WCC’s top 3-point shooting teams but made just 3 of 22 attempts, numbers similar to the first meeting (4 of 20). Wintering, who scored just one point in the second half, was 0 of 3 from distance. Bryce Pressley missed all four of his 3-point attempts.

“They’re a high-octane offense, they can hurt you in a lot of ways,” GU coach Mark Few said. “Wintering is a fabulous player. We did a really nice job on him and choked down on their 3-point shooters, which they do as good as anybody in the country.”

The Zags, second nationally in 3-point percentage defense, made 15 of 26 3s against the Pilots, who focused on slowing down Sabonis but didn’t have much luck. On one second-half play, Sabonis was doubled in the corner, passed out to Perkins, who dished to Dranginis for an open 3-pointer.

“It takes a lot of pressure off me and Wiltjer,” Sabonis said. “We’re shooting a lot better now and it’s just making it tougher for teams to guard us.”

Gonzaga used three 3-pointers – two by Wiltjer – to bump a 33-29 lead to 42-31. The Pilots were within seven when Wiltjer drained a corner jumper just before the shot clock expired to give Gonzaga a 44-35 lead at the break.

GU opened the second half with four 3-pointers, two more by Wiltjer, on its first five possessions to take a 22-point lead. The Zags made their first six 3-point attempts in the second half.

“We’re playing really good basketball,” McClellan said. “Guys are clicking at right time and we’re just playing together.”

Jarrel Marshall led the Pilots with a career-high 25 points.