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Blake Stepp scored 31, grabbed 8 rebounds and dished 5 assists to showcase his game in front of family and friends in Chiles Center on the campus of the University of Portland, just up the freeway from Eugene where Stepp grew up. Ronny Turiaf added 27 points and 11 boards. But the rest of the injury-riddled Zags only chipped in 12 points.
The win was not pretty and the play was not textbook, but the 3-point victory did improve Gonzaga's WCC record to 5-0 and overall 14-5.
Without Kyle Bankhead (back spasms) and with Tony Skinner slowed by a sprained ankle, the Zags had to go deep into their bench, calling on Walkons to seal this game.
But Gonzaga started well and began to assert themselves in the first half to lead by 15 before a spirited Portland team crept back to within 5 at the half. Blake Stepp was simply on fire from afar and Ronny Turiaf was unstoppable and tenacious inside.
Though the Bulldogs never trailed in this contest, the outcome remained tenuous as Gonzaga chose to employ a delay offense. Between missed free-throws and poor shot selection, the deliberate pace let the Pilots gain momentum as Casey Frandsen and Adam Quick began hitting treys. After Winston Brooks made just one of two and Josh Reisman missed both free-throws with 3 seconds to go, Portland had a chance to tie.
The halfcourt shot went wide right and it was the sixth win in a row for Gonzaga.
The next day Gonzaga fans flocked to The Kennel to paint it red with everyone wearing red shirts. It was the Gonzaga Lady Bulldogs versus the Portland Lady Pilots.
Before a record crowd and an Eastern Washington television audience, the Lady Zags kept Portland guessing all day by going inside then hitting from outside. Guards Shannon Mathews and Triana Allen gave the Lady Pilots fits...
But it was freshman Anne Bailey who starred this day. She recorded an impressive double-double, pounding it inside one minute, swishing long shots the next. The 6'1" forward ran the floor like a deer, once catching a three-quarter court pass from Triana for a fastbreak layup.
The Zags led at half by 5 and slowly built on that lead until Triana Allen iced it making four of five free-throws in the waning moments. Triana would provide highlights with her breakaway steal and layin and her athletic moves near the basket.
Raeanna Jewell played a physical game and earned solid numbers while Shannon Mathews led the team in assists and provided her usual long range threat.
Gonzaga's men next host the WCC 2nd-place San Diego Toreros on Thursday at 7:00pm in The Kennel while the Lady Zags hit the road to Santa Clara on Thursday.