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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga facing another team with formula for beating WCC bully

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few had his hands full against Santa Clara last week and expects more of the same against Portland on Saturday in the McCarthey Athletic Center.

The uniforms will be different, the style not so much.

Gonzaga entertains Portland at 5 p.m. Saturday and the Pilots, aside from their purple jerseys, carry similarities offensively to Santa Clara and San Francisco. The latter two squads gave Gonzaga’s defense fits in the Bay Area last week.

“It’s almost like what we just got done facing,” Zags coach Mark Few said. “They’re really skilled, spread you out, great little point guard in (Alec) Wintering who has become an excellent player in our league. And just deadly shooters that spread you out, bounce it and shoot 3s.”

The Zags (12-3, 4-0 WCC) held off Santa Clara 79-77, despite the Broncos burying 12 of 24 3-pointers. GU followed that with a 102-94 overtime win against USF, which cooled off late in regulation but still connected on 14 3s.

As the numbers suggest, Gonzaga was strong at the offensive end but had trouble containing guard-driven offenses. GU held non-conference opponents to 37.8 percent shooting, 26 percent beyond the arc. In four WCC games, Zag opponents are at 43.4 and 39.8, respectively.

Santa Clara’s three starting guards combined for 51 points. The Dons’ four starting guards poured in 83 points. Wintering leads the Pilots at 17.1 points and 5.8 assists and guard Bryce Pressley adds 13.9 points. Wintering has attempted 119 free throws, 10th nationally. Pressley’s 44.7-percent accuracy from 3 rates 30th.

Portland averages 86.5 points in conference, second only to Gonzaga’s 91.2.

The Zags lost a premier defender in center Przemek Karnowski, who had season-ending back surgery Dec. 31. He’s been sidelined since the final game of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

“He’s an unbelievable force on both ends of the floor,” Few said. “Probably with this team we feel it most on the defensive end. We’ve adjusted our numbers and our efficiency has been pretty darn good on the offensive end but we’ve definitely slipped on the defensive end without him protecting the rim.”