The Gonzaga Bulldogs had gotten off to a very fast start in WCC play this season, winning their first four games at home by an average margin of 21.5 points. They traveled to face the Portland Pilots, a team that they had won 20-straight against coming into the game, for their first conference road game. From the start, it was clear that Portland was the hungrier team, hustling after loose balls and out-working the Zags all night long. The result was a 82-73 upset for Gonzaga that has now learned the hard way they have to do more than just show up to win games.
Mark Few put it simply in his comments after the game:
“They were flying around and beating us to pretty much every ball that was available. I thought they outplayed us on offense and they outplayed us on the defensive end. We didn’t execute very well until there at the end, and they deserve a lot of credit.
“We never quite got our feet ready, and Portland did a great job of making shots and flying around and basically just outplaying us all night.”
The loss should serve as an important wake-up call for the defending WCC Champions, who must play great team basketball in order to find success this season. Even against teams who they have historically dominated like Portland, if the Zags don’t show up with their best, they are going to get beat. Against the Pilots, the Bulldogs appeared to be surprised by the energy that Portland came out with and trailed 39-31 at the break. They wouldn’t get much closer in the second half, closing the gap to 78-71 with 1:05 left before Portland held them off to win by nine.
The team’s leading scorer, Kevin Pangos, was held to just 12 points on the night as he shot just 3-for-10 from the field. Sam Dower led the Zags with 14 points as the usually hot-shooting Zags shot just 45 percent from the floor, including just 4-for-15 from beyond the three-point line. Coming into the game, Gonzaga had held their previous six opponents under 62 points but couldn’t contain Portland in this one. Their lack of execution resulted in a poor shooting night and bad team defense which led to their upset loss.
For Gonzaga, this loss should serve as motivation going forward to come into every game with their utmost intensity and focus. When you’re the face of the conference like the Zags are for the WCC, every team is going to bring their best game each and every night to try and knock you off. If Gonzaga doesn’t respond to that challenge with energy, focus, and execution of their gameplan, they’ll be vulnerable to several more upsets before the season is over.