PORTLAND, Oregon — Gonzaga coach Mark Few expected Portland to make a run in the second half. When the Pilots rallied, the seventh-ranked Bulldogs were up to the challenge.
Kevin Pangos and Prezemek Karnowski scored 21 points each to lead Gonzaga to an 87-75 victory over Portland on Saturday night. Gary Bell Jr. had 12 points and Byron Wesley added 10 to help the Bulldogs (14-1, 3-0 West Coast) win their seventh straight.
After trailing by 21, the Pilots (10-5, 1-2) pulled to 75-70 on Alex Wintering's two free throws with 1:58 to play before dropping their second straight.
"Portland's a good team and they're at home, so you expect them to have some sort of run in them," Few said. "We obliged by giving them a lot of second-chance points and not keeping with our defensive assignments."
Wintering, coming off a career-high 30-point game in a 97-88 loss at BYU on Monday, led Portland with 20 points, and Thomas van der Mars had 17 points and eight rebounds.
"We lost an opportunity here," van der Mars said. "I think if we came out like we did the second half and competed with them all the way, we could have given ourselves a chance to win."
Gonzaga shot 60 percent (29 for 51) from the field while limiting Portland to 47 percent (28 for 60). The Bulldogs also finished with a 32-27 edge in rebounds, although the Pilots had a 17-11 advantage on the boards in the second half, which keyed their comeback.
The Pilots struggled off the opening tip, going 1 for 4 from the field with three turnovers in their first seven possessions leading up to the first timeout.
"Really surprising," Portland coach Eric Reveno said of the slugging start. "I think it was caring too much, wanting to be perfect and not just relaxing and playing. Our margin for error is just so slim, you dig yourself a hole and you have a hard time."
After van der Mars scored to pull Portland within 21-14, Gonzaga went on a 14-2 run that ended with Domantas Sabonis scoring off an offensive rebound to give the Bulldogs their largest lead of the half at 35-16 with 4:05 remaining.
Bryce Pressley, Jason Todd and Bobby Sharp hit 3-pointers for Portland that helped cut the deficit to 43-28 at halftime.
"I went in at halftime and I couldn't think of anything that we did really well," Reveno said. "We didn't do anything at a level that would win us to game. So, it was sort of, 'Let's take a mulligan the first half and just relax and play the second half.'"
Karnowski hit a deep 3 off an inbounds pass to extend Gonzaga's largest lead of the game to 65-44 with 10:29 to play.
The Pilots responded with a 20-5 run, pulling to 70-64 and getting the near-sellout crowd into the game when Gerun tipped in a Riley Barker miss with 5:25 remaining.
Karnowski converted a three-point play with 47 seconds left and Pangos added six free throws in the final 27 seconds to seal the win.
"We've been on the road for like a month," Few said. "So, you take that into account, it's pretty remarkable what we've been able to do. We started on this journey way back in Tucson.
"I was proud of our guys the way they held up and now we finally get to go play in front of our home crowd. But, again, we need to do a better job of putting the game away."
Gonzaga: The roster boasts three former Portland-area high school standouts in sophomore forward Connor Griffin (Lake Oswego), freshman guard Silas Melson (Jefferson), and junior forward Kyle Wiltjer (Jesuit). ... This is the ninth season in a row that the Bulldogs have started league play 3-0. ... With the win, Gonzaga avenged last season's 82-73 loss to the Pilots in Portland that snapped the Bulldogs' 20-game series win streak.
Portland: Leading scorer Kevin Bailey (13.1 ppg) sat out his eighth consecutive game with a foot injury sustained in Portland's 83-71 victory over crosstown rival Portland State on Dec. 3. The Pilots have gone 4-4 in his absence. ... Wintering scored in double figures for the fourth straight game, going 5 for 13 from the field and 9 for 11 at the free-throw line. He also had eight assists.
Gonzaga: Hosts San Francisco on Thursday.
Portland: Hosts Santa Clara on Thursday.