No. 3 Gonzaga won its 14th straight game Thursday, overcoming a slow start to beat Portland, 64-46, at home.
“We really started off a little slow, but we’re just glad we were able to kind of keep sticking to the game plan,” Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer said on Ferrall on the Bench. “We got that nice little run in the second half to get away from them.”
The Bulldogs went on a 21-2 run midway through the second half and held Portland without a field goal for more than 12 minutes.
“Our shots weren’t falling early on, and I think what really helped us get away was just getting stops on defense,” said Wiltjer, who scored 11 points. “Our shooting wasn’t there today, but our defense really stepped up. We were able to get big stops and get some easy baskets in transition.”
Wiltjer was one of four Bulldogs to score between 10 and 13 points. Przemek Karnowski, Kevin Pangos and Domantas Sabonis were the others.
Karnowski, in fact, dominated down low, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking three shots. The 7-1 junior also had a team-high four assists and two seals, while Sabonis – at 6-11 – had 13 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
“It just shows how deep we are,” Wiltjer said. “Having that many guys around that point every game just shows how deep we are. It just shows that we’re tough to guard if that many people can step up and score like that.”
Gonzaga (21-1, 10-0) beat Portland (12-10, 3-7) for the 37th time in 39 games, holding the Pilots to 29.5 percent shooting from the floor. The Zags have now won 37 straight home games – the longest streak in the country.
“That’s a huge advantage for us,” Wiltjer said of playing at home. “Our fans are amazing. They got our back, and they kind of get us going. So we were able to start the season off playing good on the road and now being back and able to get some home games is nice.”
Gonzaga has just one loss this season: a 66-63 overtime loss at then-No. 3, now-No. 6 Arizona on Dec. 6. Since then, the Bulldogs have won 14 straight games, including 12 by double digits.
Wiltjer said Gonzaga learned a lot from that early season loss to the Wildcats.
“No doubt,” he said. “It was a tough loss for us. We kind of just learned from what we did wrong. That’s why we’ve improved as a team. We’ve just continued to get better and just keep doing our thing.”
Gonzaga has another home game this Saturday against Memphis (13-7, 6-3) at 10 p.m. ET. The Tigers have won five of their last six games and are third in the country in blocks per game (7.1).
“We’ll be ready,” Wiltjer said. “We got a quick turnaround, but we’re going to listen to the coaches (Friday) and get prepared for them.”