Don’t let that final score – Gonzaga 73, Portland 52 – fool you.
No. 4 Gonzaga spent most of Saturday’s game in that gray area where it wasn’t really in jeopardy of losing but it wasn’t comfortably ahead of a short-handed opponent.
Concern areas popped up. Rebounding, particularly yielding offensive rebounds, reared its head again after the Zags seemed to have rectified that from a rough patch in late November, early December.
Portland, which learned earlier Saturday that All-WCC point guard Alec Wintering had suffered a season-ending ACL injury during Thursday’s loss to San Francisco, fed off the underdog role.
The Pilots outhustled GU, and it showed up on the boards (41-33) and in the pursuit of 50-50 balls.
The Pilots drained the shot clock on nearly every offensive trip, shrinking the number of possessions. The Zags had plenty of open perimeter looks. They hit four 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes to build a double-digit lead before cooling off from distance.
All of that merely kept the Pilots close for the better part of 30 minutes. The Zags finally broke free, constructing a 25-point lead, but even then they weren’t allowed to enjoy the closing minutes.
Also today: Take a look at Thursday’s game by the numbers.
That’s because junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss landed awkwardly on his left hip inside the 5-minute mark. After the next whistle, he limped off the court and went straight to the training room.
His recovery time is limited before Gonzaga lines up again. The Zags visit Portland on Monday, the make-up game from a Jan. 7 postponement.
“Something kind of like a bone bruise,” Williams-Goss said. “Tomorrow will be a big day, just wake up and see how it feels.”
Also today: Three keys from GU’s 73-52 win over Portland
The Zags didn’t feel particularly good about how the first 30 minutes unfolded inside the McCarthey Athletic Center. The Pilots finished with 21 offensive rebounds, good for 19 second-chance points. They nearly fought GU to a standstill in point paints (minus-6).
“When the bigs go to help, five guys need to go rebound the ball, that’s probably one of the things we need to fix,” Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski said. “Individual rebounding, go back and box out, it’s on me, too. It’s on all of us.”
Zags coach Mark Few acknowledged all of the problem spots, but the bottom line is still the bottom line.
“It was kind of a choppy game,” Few said. “Portland did a nice job, especially being undermanned, of coming in here and fighting us, playing us physical and beating us to some balls.
“But a 20-point win at home is nothing to not feel good about.”