SPOKANE, Wash. — Malachi Smith led six teammates in double figures with his season high 27 points, seven 3-pointers and a team-leading eight rebounds on Saturday night, and No. 8 Gonzaga used a dominant first half to top Portland 115-75.
Gonzaga (16-3, 5-0 West Coast Conference) never trailed, racing out to a 40-14 lead with 7:00 left in the first half, igniting a raucous home crowd who cheered on the Bulldogs to their NCAA-best 75th straight home victory, and 15th straight win over Portland.
Gonzaga unleashed a barrage of 3s early on, knocking down six through the first 10 minutes while Portland (9-11, 1-4) shot 0-9 from behind the arc during that time.
Smith knew all along the game plan was to get hot early from deep.
“We knew their game plan was to pack the paint and so coach was telling us just to be ready to shoot,” said Smith. “And we were ready. Once you hit that first shot you know, it just gets easier. The rim just starts to look like an ocean.”
Following a narrow 75-74 win over BYU in Provo on Thursday, coach Mark Few wanted to be sure the effort was the same tonight.
“By and large it was a really good effort, especially coming off of an emotional win and then dealing with a quick turnaround,” said Few. “Malachi and Julian (Strawther) just shoot it really deep effortlessly, so I think that helps us spread things out.”
Portland cut the deficit to 17 with 5:16 left in the half, but the Bulldogs responded with a 19-3 run, and Gonzaga led 61-28 at half.
Drew Timme scored 18 for Gonzaga, Strawther added 14 and seven rebounds, Nolan Hickman scored 13 and Anton Watson and Ben Gregg each added 12. Ten players scored for the Bulldogs who have now won 11 straight.
Moses Wood led the Pilots with 19 points, shooting six of 13, and Kristian Sjolund added 17 points and a team-leading 12 rebounds.
“We gave up a couple of open shots and things, but like I said I feel like we defended really well, that’s a good offensive team,” said Few.
It was Gonzaga’s third consecutive game scoring more than 100 points against Portland. The avalanche was fueled by a spectacular shooting performance which saw Gonzaga finish 56% from the field, hitting 17 3s at a 45% clip.
Portland turned the ball over 19 times, including 12 in the first half, leading to 37 points for the Bulldogs who gave it away just four times.
Portland coach Shantay Legans said his team displayed no strengths tonight.
“We turned the ball over a bunch, and all those turnovers led to baskets on the other end. Lots of 3s, and a lot of easy shots,” said Legans. “They just kept their foot on the gas the whole time, and we didn’t put forth our best tonight.”
The Zags will host LMU on Thursday night. Tip off for that game is set for 6:00 PM.