Portland has become a nice home away from home for the Gonzaga Bulldogs over the last two decades, and Thursday was no exception as they rolled to another win in the Rose City.
Mark Few won for the 28th time in 30 games in Portland over his 24 seasons as head coach of Gonzaga as the Bulldogs routed Portland State 102-78 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in the first round of the Phil Knight Legacy. Gonzaga, ranked sixth in the AP top 25 this week, won its 72nd consecutive game as a ranked team against an unranked opponent.
“That’s not an easy team to play against,” Few said of the fast-paced Vikings. “They’re in your face for 40 minutes and switching everything and basically you can’t run your offensive sets. I felt like we did a great job of handling that.”
Gonzaga had 24 assists on 38 field goals, led by Rasir Bolton with eight. The Bulldogs committed 11 turnovers.
In March, Gonzaga defeated Georgia State and Memphis in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament at the Moda Center. The Bulldogs will move over there for Friday’s PK Legacy semifinal against No. 24 Purdue at 8:30 p.m.
“At least you get a day off in March,” Few said when asked if this event can serve as a dry run for the NCAA Tournament experience. “But the caliber of competition is there, and the fact that we’ll go from playing against five guards running around and shooting deep threes to an unbelievable post player in (Purdue’s) Zach Edey. So it’s the changing styles and schemes that you have to deal with and you get a very short prep for it.”
Gonzaga features many familiar faces from last season’s team, including Bolton and reigning WCC player of the year Drew Timme, who scored 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting. But it was new face Malachi Smith, a transfer from Chattanooga, who had a breakout game by going 5 for 5 on three-pointers and scoring a season-high 23 points.
“I just try to be ready whenever my number is called,” said Smith, who had averaged seven points over his first four games with Gonzaga after posting nearly 20 per game with Chattanooga last season. “That’s why I prepare so hard. I’m all about winning, and while nights like this are great, we all have our roles to play.”
Junior Jorell Saterfield, a transfer who played last season at UTEP, scored 21 points to lead the Vikings. Jesuit High School alum Cameron Parker added 16 points and eight assists.
“We competed all night long,” said Vikings coach Jase Coburn. “We had a bad stretch in the first half where they exposed a lot of mistakes we made, and that’s something they’re very good at. They went on a run and it was tough for us to recover. But we challenged our team and they responded and got after it in the second half.”
Despite being the hometown team, the Vikings were badly outnumbered in fan support, as the vast majority of the Thanksgiving night crowd came out to support Gonzaga (4-1).
Portland State, which beat Oregon State 79-66 in its last outing on Saturday, fell to 2-3 with the loss. The Vikings will play West Virginia in a consolation game at 6 p.m. Friday at the Moda Center.
“It’s a really good experience that we’re going to play some of the best teams in the country, but at the same time we’re not here to be just a participant,” Coburn said. “We’re going to go out and compete and get after it every time.”
The Vikings hung around early and led 14-12 just over seven minutes into the game, but the Zags, who have consistently been one of the top shooting teams in the country in recent seasons, eventually took over offensively. Leading by eight with 7:42 left in the half, the Bulldogs rattled off a 20-3 run to end any hope of an upset bid by the local squad. Gonzaga made 21 of 32 first-half shots and 8 of 14 from three-point range to lead 55-31 at halftime.
Portland State continued to fight after halftime, pulling as close as 18 points and playing the Bulldogs even in the second half despite the end result never being in doubt. Gonzaga shot 60% for the game, compared to 43% for the Vikings.
Gonzaga improved to 13-3 all-time versus Portland State. The last time the teams faced off, the Vikings earned a shocking win over the then-No. 7 Bulldogs 77-70 in Spokane on Dec. 23, 2008.
Clackamas High School graduate Ben Gregg, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, played the last five minutes for Gonzaga, and scored four points.
-- Scott Sepich for The Oregonian/OregonLive
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