No. 15 Gonzaga brings balance into game against Portland
Sports Xchange - Thursday 11th January, 2018
Similar to the run to a national title appearance last season, No. 15 Gonzaga is establishing itself as one of the most balanced teams in the nation.
Last year's team included All-American guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who led the Bulldogs at 16.8 points per game. Four others averaged scoring in double figures combined with one of the best defensive teams.
Entering last week's games, Gonzaga (14-3, 4-0 West Coast Conference) was the only team in the nation with six players averaging double digits in scoring. By the end of the weekend, five were averaging double figures and senior guard Silas Melson was at 9.7 points per game.
The Bulldogs are one of four teams to have six players score at least 20 points in a game. They next host struggling Portland (6-11, 0-4) on Thursday night.
"It's like the full essence of a team," junior guard Josh Perkins said of the Bulldogs to the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review. "You never know who can go off on any night. That's what is so special about this team. It's going to be a different guy's night every night."
Senior forward Johnathan Williams, behind a 30-point performance against Loyola Marymount on Saturday, moved past Perkins as the team's top scorer at 14.5 points per game.
Perkins is next at 13.5 points. Zach Norvell Jr., sophomore forward Killian Tillie and junior forward Rui Hachimura also have led Gonzaga in scoring at least three times.
"We have a deep team," Tillie said. "Everybody can score 20 each night. It's hard for the other teams to scout and to focus" on one player."
Portland enters the game against Gonzaga on a four-game losing streak, all conference games, including Saturday's 70-68 setback at Santa Clara.
Sophomore guard Josh McSwiggan scored a team-high 17 points for the Pilots. Freshman forward Tahirou Diabate had a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds with four blocks. Freshman guard Marcus Shaver Jr. added 13 points.
The Pilots are 0-4 in true road games this season and 1-7 in games away from the Chiles Center.
McSwiggan averages a team-best 13.4 points per game. Shaver Jr. and Franklin Porter, son of Portland coach and former NBA player Terry Porter, add 11.2 points each.
Terry Porter is respectful of Gonzaga's depth, saying on his coach's show Tuesday that coach Mark Few has "done a great job of stacking talent and bringing in talent. They don't rebuild; they just reload. This current group is a talented group of players. They have a lot of good basketball players that can do a lot of good things and they play well together."
A matchup to watch: Williams (6-foot-9, 228 pounds) going against Philipp Hartwich, a 7-2, 250-pound center from Germany.
Hartwich is grabbing 8.9 rebounds per game and has 47 blocks this season. He leads the West Coast Conference in blocks (14th in the NCAA) and blocks per game (2.76, 19th in the nation).
His size does not prevent him from shooting from long range. He is 17th in the country and first in the WCC, shooting 47.8 percent from 3-point range.
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