Drew Timme, Gonzaga return home to host Portland Pilots: Preview – Sports Illustrated

Drew Timme, Gonzaga return home to host Portland Pilots: Preview – Sports Illustrated

It hasn’t been pretty, but a win is a win, right?
That’s the mantra Gonzaga men's basketball fans have grown accustomed to as they watched their team overcome adversity throughout a three-game road stretch that seriously tested the No. 8 ranked team in the country.
The Zags (15-3, 4-0) battled back from down double-digits against San Francisco, Santa Clara and most recently BYU while needing some late-game heroics from their stars to get the job done.
It started with Rasir Bolton’s game-winning putback in the waning seconds against the Dons last Thursday. Two nights later, Nolan Hickman’s dagger 3-pointer on a crossover move helped complete a 14-point comeback over the Broncos.
On Thursday versus BYU, it was Julian Strawther’s turn to deliver in the clutch. The 6-foot-7 wing took it upon himself in the game’s final play as he snatched a rebound off a Jaxson Robinson missed free-throw, raced up the court, patiently used a Drew Timme pick and rose up to knock down the go-ahead basket with 9.8 seconds left.
“We don’t like to be in this situation all the time and needing a big shot, but I’m glad they keep dropping,” Strawther told the Spokesman-Review after the BYU game.
Now, the cardiac Zags head home for a Saturday night matchup against the Portland Pilots (9-10, 1-3 WCC), who are coming off a thrilling victory of their own.
In a game featuring 16 lead changes and six ties, the Pilots outlasted the visiting Dons 92-87 on Thursday behind three 20-point performances, including 23 from junior guard and leading scorer, Tyler Robertson.
Following former Eastern Washington head coach Shantay Legans from Cheney, Washington to Portland turned out well for both former Eagles, as Robertson has led the Pilots in scoring in each of the last two seasons and was named to the All-WCC second team in 2021-22. Meanwhile, Legans retained his top seven scorers over the offseason after posting a 19-15 record in his first season, the program’s best season in over a decade.
Yet despite the experience and Robertson’s play, the Pilots have a long road to climb in the standings as they’ve dropped five of their last six contests and are 1-3 to start WCC play.
Surrounding Robertson is a talented and productive frontcourt. Sophomore Moses Wood averages a team-best 6.1 rebounds to go with 13.6 points per game, while 6-8 wing Kristian Sjolund shoots 40.7% from deep on 4.5 attempts per game. Both scored over 20 points in the narrow victory over San Francisco, including a double-double for Sjolund.
For the Zags, slowing down the 3-prong attack will be a point of emphasis, as well as limiting the number of open looks from deep. The Pilots knock down 9.1 3-pointers per game, good enough for second-most in the conference behind the Dons, who knocked down 10 triples against Gonzaga last week.
BYU found similar success to the tune of 13-for-24 from deep, which tied the most 3-pointers allowed in a game this season by the Zags.
Offensively, Drew Timme and Anton Watson have an opportunity to impose their will on the Pilots, who rank last in the WCC with 2.1 blocks per game. The frontcourt tandem led Gonzaga in scoring against BYU, with Timme posting 19 points and 12 rebounds while Watson finished with a season-high 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting the ball.
Coming off one of their most balanced performances as a duo, Timme and Watson will look to do more of the same on Saturday to help Gonzaga pick up its 16th straight win in the series versus Portland.
Prediction: Zags 90, Pilots 79

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