Julian Strawther hits eight 3s, drops 40 points to lift Gonzaga past Portland 82-67
Jan. 28, 2023 Updated Sat., Jan. 28, 2023 at 9:12 p.m.
Gonzaga’s Julian Strawther reacts after hitting one of his eight 3-pointers against Portland during Saturday’s 82-67 West Coast Conference win at the Chiles Center in Portland. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
PORTLAND – Julian Strawther’s first 3-pointer in a Gonzaga uniform came as a freshman at Portland’s Chiles Center.
The junior wing’s first 3-pointer Saturday came with 16 minutes, 40 seconds left in the first half, and Pilots coach Shantay Legans later lamented “it went downhill from there” and “you can’t let good players like that get rolling.”
Gonzaga floated in and out of offensive and defensive rhythm, but Strawther was in sync throughout, scoring 40 points to guide the 14th-ranked Zags past the Pilots 82-67.
Strawther was well aware he was approaching the 40-point mark late in the game. GU players on the bench did, too, and they were pulling for the Las Vegas native to hit the milestone. And so was Drew Timme, who had a chance at a 40-point night against Pacific on Jan. 21 but misfired on two late free throws.
Strawther made a pair of foul shots with 2:10 remaining. He sported a big smile when he hit a putback to reach 40 with 1:30 left.
“He (Timme) just told me in the locker room, ‘Thank you for not pulling a me and missing the free throws at the end,’ ” Strawther said.
Strawther finished with eight 3-pointers – one shy of the school record held by Dan Dickau, Kevin Pangos and Corey Kispert – 6-of -9 shots inside the arc and all four of his free throws.
He registered Gonzaga’s 21st 40-point game and the first since Kyle Wiltjer scored 45 points against Pacific in 2015. Timme finished with 38 points against Pacific on Jan. 21.
“We always talk about Portland being a shooters’ gym,” said Strawther, whose previous career high was 23 points against Xavier. “I used to get 40 every now and then in high school, but I never thought I’d get one in college.
“All the guys on the bench were yelling at me to get one more bucket. I had a similar moment in high school. I was one basket off 50. It’s a crazy feeling once those last points go in.”
By then, Gonzaga was well on its way to pulling away from the pesky Pilots, who had cut the Zags’ lead to 56-54 with 8:53 left on Juanse Gorosito’s 3-pointer. GU’s 21-7 run over the next 6:40 started, appropriately, with a Strawther 3, generated by Ben Gregg’s offensive rebound and assist.
Strawther and Malachi Smith added 3s, and Gonzaga had its best defensive stretch of the contest to build a 77-61 lead with 2:10 left.
The Zags (18-4, 7-1 West Coast Conference) were far from perfect on defense, but they came up with 17 turnovers – Anton Watson snagged three of the team’s 11 steals – and converted those into 29 points.
Portland’s 67 points were 10 below its season average and the lowest by a GU opponent in eight conference games.
“We were more alert, more dialed in,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “They hit some 3s in that second half … some of the actions they do and shots they take are interesting, to say the least, and they had it going, but by and large our energy was better and our connectivity was better. We didn’t have as many assignment errors.”
Moses Wood scored 19 points, and Gorosito added a season-high 17, but Watson limited Tyler Robertson to 10 points, including 2-of-10 shooting from the field.
“They put us in tough spots,” Legans said. “They switched up their defensive principles in the second half and switched everything. It kind of put us in a bad spot. Guys started questioning themselves on simple passes. We have to play much better than that to beat a top-20 team.”
Portland’s defensive strategy against GU centers on crowding Timme in the paint. The senior forward scored a season-low eight points, but he contributed five boards and five assists – two on Strawther 3s in the first half and another to Smith for a three-point play in GU’s decisive second-half run.
The Zags have connected on 18, 17 and 11 3-pointers in their past three wins over Legans’ Pilots.
“We’ve seen that a lot this season where they all collapse on Drew and it’s tough for him to make plays,” said Watson, who finished with 17 points, five boards and four assists. “But he still does.”
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