Gonzaga is the top-shooting team in the nation, and its recent strong play at the defensive end has contributed to that offensive success.
The third-ranked Bulldogs look to maintain that formula while trying for a 14th straight victory Thursday night against visiting Portland.
Halfway through the West Coast Conference schedule, Gonzaga (20-1, 9-0) has its sights set on going undefeated in the league and earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, both for the second time in three seasons.
The national leader in field-goal percentage at 53.3, Gonzaga shot 60.0 percent in extending the country’s longest home winning streak to 36 with a 91-60 rout of Pacific on Saturday. Przemek Karnowski and Gary Bell Jr. each scored 13 to lead five players in double figures for the Bulldogs, who got 13 points off turnovers and 39 from their reserves.
"We were moving it, and moving it, making the extra, extra pass," said coach Mark Few, who has won at least 20 games in each of his 16 seasons at Gonzaga. "That’s when we’re at an elite level, especially on the offensive end."
Gonzaga has shot 54.9 percent in seven games this month and won its last three by an average of 23.0 points. Over that three-game stretch, it’s held Loyola Marymount, Saint Mary’s and Pacific to averages of 54.0 points and 32.7 percent shooting, including 12 of 58 (20.7 percent) from 3-point range.
"I thought they’ve done a real nice job, our defense was really solid," Few said. "No complaints here."
The Bulldogs have managed to set the tempo early while allowing its last three opponents to shoot 30.9 percent in the first half. They led by 18 after 20 minutes against Pacific, and have been up by no fewer than six at halftime in their last eight.
Gonzaga held Portland (12-9, 3-6) to 39.3 percent shooting and led by 15 at the break of an 87-75 home victory Jan. 3 that avenged an 82-73 road loss to the Pilots last season – which snapped the Bulldogs’ 20-game win streak in the series. Karnowski and Kevin Pangos each scored 21 as the Bulldogs shot 56.9 percent, though Gonzaga allowed a 21-point lead to be cut to five as Portland shot 53.1 percent in the second half.
The Pilots know getting down early against Gonzaga makes the challenge to win even tougher.
”I think if we came out like we did the second half and competed with them all the way, we could have given ourselves a chance to win," said center Thomas van der Mars, who had 17 points in that contest.
Losers of six of eight overall and three straight on the road, the Pilots have dropped 11 in a row at Gonzaga, though they outscored the Bulldogs by 12 in the second half of a 71-66 loss there Feb. 5.
Portland’s Kevin Bailey, averaging a team-best 14.1 points, missed the first meeting with Gonzaga due to a foot injury. He totaled 49 points in the previous two games before scoring 13 and shooting 4 of 16 in a 74-64 loss to Saint Mary’s on Saturday.
Van der Mars had 16 points and 13 rebounds in the contest.