Portland has a chance to make statement against Gonzaga in WCC opener
If Portland has a chance to end Gonzaga's streak of nine straight conference titles, Saturday night matchup would be a good place to start.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Gonzaga @ Portland, 7 p.m.
PORTLAND — If the University of Portland is to be a threat to Gonzaga's string of nine straight West Coast Conference basketball titles, the Pilots can make an opening statement tonight in a WCC game between the teams.
"I feel we're in a good place," said UP coach Eric Reveno. "The thing that really makes me feel like we're ready is, there's nothing really glaring we need more time to work on."
The Pilots are 9-5, but have been up and down since a breakout 76 Classic showing late in November in Anaheim, when they got to the final of the eight-team event and as a result, gained their first AP ranking in 50 years.
Since then, they've gone 4-5, losing to Idaho by 20 points, beating the Vandals by 30 and losing to Washington by 35 in Seattle three weeks ago.
Gonzaga is 11-3 and bounced back well from a 35-point whipping against Duke on Dec. 19 with wins last week against Oklahoma and Illinois.
"We've had some spells of phenomenal basketball," says GU coach Mark Few, "and we've had some spells of what-the-heck-is-that.
"But you sit back and look at the big picture, and what this group has accomplished with the schedule and the travel we've had is phenomenal."
The Pilots have one of the most veteran rosters in the country. Of the top six scorers — led at 14.6 by guard Nik Raivio, brother of former Zag Derek Raivio — four are seniors and two juniors.
"Obviously, we'll need to be ready for their energy and effort and desire," said Few. "They're a real bear at home."
Referring to Portland's .399 percentage on three-point shots, Few said, "The way they shoot the ball from three is scary. We can't let them just shoot comfortably out there."
• Andy Poling, a 6-foot-10 reserve forward from suburban Portland, has left the Zags. After committing to them in high school, Poling experienced a stomach disorder that caused him to lose considerable weight.
• Kyle Dranginis, a 6-4 junior guard from Skyview High in Nampa, Idaho, has committed to Gonzaga. He was Idaho player of the year as a sophomore, when he led his team to a state championship.
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