Big First Half Leads No. 6 Gonzaga past Portland State, 102-78 :: WRALSportsFan.com

— Malachi Smith led six players in double figures with season-high 23 points and No. 6 Gonzaga used a strong first half to defeat Portland State 102-78 in the opening round of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament on Thursday night.

The Bulldogs (4-1) led 27 in the first half, held a 55-31 half-time lead and withstood a sloppy second half.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few said he gave his players notice of games earlier in the day as Portland scared No. 1 North Carolina and No. 8 Duke was nearly upset by Oregon State.

“There are good teams here, if you are not quite ready to go or at your best you can get knocked out. I think that really helped us solidify our approach,” Few said.

Smith was Chattanooga’s Southern Conference Player of the Year last season, but had yet to score a big goal with the Zags. That finally happened against the Vikings as Smith made 9 of 12 shots and all five of his 3-point attempts.

“I just try to be ready when my number is called and whatever I’m asked to do,” Smith said.

Drew Timme scored 18 points and the only shot he missed was a dunk midway through the second half. Rasir Bolton had a career-high 14 points and eight assists, while Julian Strawther, Anton Watson and Hunter Sallis all finished with 10. Gonzaga shot 60% for the game.

“That’s what makes this team special, we have multiple players who can do multiple things,” said Smith.

Jorell Saterfield led Portland State (2-3) with 21 points and Cameron Parker added 16. Fresh off an unexpected win at Oregon State, the Vikings hung with the Zags for about 10 minutes before Gonzaga got rolling.

Portland State trailed only 18-16 after Isiah Kirby’s layup, but Gonzaga then scored 32 of the next 41 runs and it was a mix of all the key pieces that contributed. Timme had a few baskets. Bolton had seven points. Smith hit a trio of 3s.

Gonzaga shot 66% in the first half, had three players in double digits before the break.

“They are very good at exposing the defensive mistakes and that’s pretty much what happened in the first half. … They went on the run and it was hard for our guys to recover,” said Portland State coach Jace Coburn.

But second-half performances clearly didn’t sit well with Few, who were particularly frustrated by some of the sloppiness. The Bulldogs still had the majority of their starters on the ground well into the second half. Portland State narrowed the deficit to 16 a few times, but couldn’t get any closer.

“We challenged our team and they responded and felt like we went after it in the second half,” said Coburn.

BIG PHOTO

Portland State: The Vikings went 1-2 in this tournament when it was played five years ago, scaring Duke in the opening round and beating Stanford on the final day. These Vikings would like to achieve a similar result this time.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs will have a big challenge in the semifinals in 7-foot-4 Purdue center Zach Edey. Timme probably won’t have it as easy as he did against Portland State, but he did have 22 points and seven rebounds in last week’s win over Kentucky.

NEXT ONE

Portland State: Plays West Virginia in a consolation game on Friday.

Gonzaga: Will face No. 24 Purdue in the semifinals on Friday.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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