PORTLAND — The Portland Pilots lost to Gonzaga for the 19th consecutive time Thursday evening, and Bulldogs coach Mark Few was laughing out loud as he shook hands with Portland coach Eric Reveno at the end of the game.
Reveno though has only himself to blame because it was his sarcastic joking that caused Few to crack up.
“The part I can repeat,” Reveno said with a smile, “I said, ‘That was fun. I really enjoyed that. Thanks.
“‘Good luck Saturday. Thanks for an enjoyable evening.’”
The eighth-ranked Bulldogs clobbered Portland, 71-49. Gonzaga takes an eight-game winning streak into Saturday’s game with No. 13 Butler (15-2 with 12 straight wins) in Indianapolis. ESPN televises the game at 6 p.m. from Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse.
“I’m excited,” Gonzaga point guard David Stockton said. “It should be a fun atmosphere.”
The Bulldogs certainly hope they have more fun than Reveno did Thursday night. Gonzaga raced to a 16-2 lead behind Kevin Pangos’ deadly 3-point shooting (he made 4 of 8 shots), and the Pilots never recovered.
Add Reveno to the growing list of admirers who believe this might be the best team in Gonzaga history.
“I think so,” Reveno said. “It should be in the conversation.”
“It’s mid-January,” Few cautioned. “Who knows?”
Stockton, the son of former Bulldogs and Utah Jazz star John Stockton, is one of the Gonzaga reserves that Reveno describes as “scary good.” Stockton had just one point Thursday, but he also had four assists, four rebounds, two steals and only one turnover in 26 minutes.
“They have offensive and defensive balance, and inside and outside balance,” Reveno said. “They proved that tonight.”
The Pilots sagged inside in the first half on star Gonzaga forwards Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, the Bulldogs’ two leading scorers. Each player was held to just two points in the half – Olynyk played only six minutes after picking up two early fouls. But when Portland spread things out on defense in the second half, Olynyk got things going and finished with 21 points and eight rebounds. Harris added 10 points and nine boards.
The Bulldogs outrebounded Portland 36-18, including 16-7 on the offensive glass, before a sellout crowd of 4,892 at the Chiles Center. Gonzaga had a 19-4 advantage on second-chance points. Olynyk, one of the national leaders in field-goal-shooting percentage at 67.5, sank 8 of 9 shots from the field.
Gonzaga improved to 17-1 overall, and 4-0 in the West Coast Conference. The Bulldogs also moved into a first-place tie with San Diego.
Kevin Bailey scored 16 points for the Pilots (8-11, 1-3), but Portland’s other starters combined for 13 points.
Olynyk said Gonzaga’s bench was “really good,” and he offered special praise for Guy Landry Edi, who scored seven consecutive points midway through the first half to turn back a brief outburst sparked by Pilots freshman Oskars Reinfelds.