for this game

Gonzaga proves it's still top dog in WCC

Feb 6, 2009 - 7:47 AM PORTLAND, Oregon (Ticker) -- In a battle of the top two teams in the West Coast Conference, the perennial champions proved they're still top dog.

Matt Bouldin led all five starters in double figures with 26 points as 18th-ranked Gonzaga claimed a 93-78 victory over Portland on Thursday.

Jeremy Pargo had 22 points, Josh Heytvelt contributed 15 and Steven Gray and Austin Daye scored 14 apiece for the Bulldogs (17-4, 8-0 WCC), who have won eight straight conference titles and pushed their lead atop the league to two games over Portland (15-8, 6-2) by rallying in the second half.

"They have so many offensive weapons that we couldn't get them stopped," Pilots coach Eric Reveno told The Oregonian. "They got out in transition on our missed shots, and we had some turnovers against the zone, which is uncharacteristic.

"But give credit to Gonzaga for playing some great defense the second half."

Trailing by one at halftime, Gonzaga emerged from the locker rooms and immediately surged ahead with a 7-0 run capped by a pair of free throws by Heytvelt that gave the Bulldogs a 49-43 advantage.

The Pilots responded by scoring the next six points to tie the score. But Gonzaga showed its championship resolve, putting together an 8-0 surge that forced Portland to take a timeout.

Jared Stohl drained a three after the break to narrow the deficit to seven points, but the Bulldogs forged a 65-55 advantage on Heytvelt's dunk with 10:32 remaining and never looked back, extending their lead to as many as 15 points down the stretch on the strength of a smothering zone defense.

"I felt we played against the No. 1 defense in the conference tonight," Reveno told the newspaper of Gonzaga, which entered the game ranked first in nation, allowing opponents to shot only 36 percent from the field this season.

"It was a nice move on their part to go zone in the second half. ... We did a nice job against them scoring in the first half, but in the second half they switched to zone and that got us out of rhythm a little bit."

Things weren't nearly as easy in the first half for Gonzaga as Nik Raivio scored the first five points for Portland, leading his team to an 11-6 advantage with a jumper 4:02 into the contest.

Five points were the most the Pilots led by in the first half as the teams went back and forth during the opening 20 minutes.

Robin Smeulders' free throw with 31 seconds remaining in the half put Portland ahead entering the locker rooms, but it was Raivio's performance that resulted in the lead.

The junior guard, whose brother Derek was the co-WCC Player of the Year as a senior at Gonzaga in 2006-07, poured in 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the first half.

However, Raivio was held to only two points in the second half, missing 5-of-6 shots as Gonzaga led by as many as 15 points in the closing 20 minutes.