Portland, Ore., might not qualify for home-away-from-home status when it comes to No. 6 Gonzaga, but it’s close.
The Bulldogs are plenty familiar with the Rose City, having gone 27-2 in games played there during Mark Few’s 23-year tenure as coach.
Gonzaga (3-1) will look to improve that mark when it plays in the Phil Knight Legacy tournament over the holiday weekend. The Zags will open against Portland State (2-2) on Thursday night.
Gonzaga absorbed its worst loss since 2004 last Wednesday, dropping a 93-74 decision at then-No. 11 Texas.
The Bulldogs rebounded with an 88-72 victory against then-No. 4 Kentucky on Sunday night in Spokane, Wash.
“You were hoping that’s how your team responds after a disappointing loss,” Few said. “It was really, really big.”
Rasir Bolton scored 24 points, Drew Timme added 22 and Julian Strawther had 20 points and 14 rebounds for Gonzaga.
Anton Watson added 10 points and 10 rebounds while defending Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, the reigning NCAA player of the year. Tshiebwe finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds but the Wildcats were limited to 39.1 percent shooting while Gonzaga made 56.4 percent of its field-goal attempts.
“That’s no easy task for anybody, clearly,” Timme said of guarding Tshiebwe. “He still got what, 20 (points) and 15 (rebounds), but it didn’t feel like it. With players like that, you can’t let them get easy ones but you’ve got to do your best to contain them.”
Even though the Bulldogs avoided back-to-back losses for the first time since 2018, they dropped from No. 2 to No. 6 in The Associated Press rankings, the first time they were out of the top five in 52 consecutive polls.
Bolton played a larger role than usual with point guard Nolan Hickman questionable entering the game with an ankle injury suffered against Texas. Hickman played against Kentucky, but encountered foul trouble.
Bolton scored 19 points in the second half.
“We leaned on him to handle the ball more because Nolan was in foul trouble, but we need him to handle the ball more,” Few said. “I think that’s probably when we’re at our best, when everybody’s sharing it.”
Portland State is coming off a 79-66 victory Saturday at Oregon State, the Vikings’ first in 17 meetings with the Beavers.
It was also Portland State’s first win over a Pacific-12 Conference program since the 2017-18 season, when it defeated both Stanford and California.
Jorell Saterfield led the Vikings with a career-high 26 points.
“This team is mentally tough. We know there’s going to be highs and lows within a game,” Portland State coach Jase Coburn said. “It’s good for us to be tested early with highs and lows and be able to still fight through adversity and play at a high level, and that’s what we did.”
Saterfield made a 3-pointer with 49.7 seconds remaining to help clinch the victory.
“Jorell is capable of making big plays and making big shots,” Coburn said. “He’s capable of hitting from the outside and getting to the rim. He’s a really good player. He does it every day in practice. We knew he was going to be ready for these big moments.”
–Field Level Media