The Portland Pilots came ready to play.
So did their fans.
The 22nd ranked Bulldogs never led once, losing 82-73 at a wild and raucous Chiles Center in Portland marking UP’s first win over the Zags since 2003.
The difference for the Zags was energy. In the absence of guard Gary Bell Jr. (broken hand), the team’s best perimeter defender, Portland shot 52 percent from the field, and 57 percent from downtown: the best any WCC opponent has shot against the GU this season.
University of Portland did not look like a team that lost three of its first four conference games. Led by guard Bryce Pressley’s game-high 16 points and the sharpshooting of backup guard Bobby Sharp, rainy Portland’s 3-point percentage paralleled the city’s wet forecast, flushing the Bulldogs right out of the building.
“We never got our feet set defensively all night. Portland did a great job of basically just outplaying us,” head coach Mark Few said. “They were way hungrier and played a lot more assertive than we did.”
That being said, the game was nowhere near over approaching halftime, as recently eligible backup forward Angel Nunez rose up and threw down a monster Sports Center top 10-caliber dunk giving Gonzaga some momentum. Down by eight at the midway mark, Gonzaga looked to flip the tempo, but the bleeding did not stop in the second half.
With just over eight minutes remaining, senior guard Kevin Pangos’ pocket was picked by Pressley leading to a fast break jam by reserve guard Korey Thieleke, a Gonzaga timeout, and a likewise boisterous crowd.
To make matters worse for the Zags, Pressley drained a 3 at the seven minute mark, and assisted on another one after a block on the ensuing possession giving the home team its largest lead at 17. But UP was not done. A Lackadaisical defensive outing helped the crowd-fueled Pilots to hold a double-digit lead throughout most of the second half and withstand a resilient comeback attempt by GU in the final minutes.
According to Few, having Bell on both ends of the floor would have drastically helped the Zags. That being said, he was far from quick to make excuses.
Zags lose to Portland 82-73
Gonzaga Bulletin | Jan 19