If the turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and hours of football haven’t induced an early bedtime, then some late-night college hoops accompanied by a slice of pie will make for a well-rounded Thanksgiving dessert.
The No. 6 Gonzaga Bulldogs (3-1) will conclude the first round of games in the Phil Knight Legacy tournament against the Portland State Vikings on Thursday at 9:30 pm in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. A win would send them to the semifinal against either Purdue or West Virginia with a chance to appear in the championship game on Sunday afternoon.
Gonzaga enters the eight-team tournament fresh off a dominating victory over No. 15 Kentucky on Sunday. The Bulldogs led by as many as 18 points in the first half as Oscar Tshiebwe and Co. struggled to find the bottom of the basket with any consistency. A furious comeback was thwarted once Drew Timme and Rasir Bolton, who scored 19 points in the second half, closed the door on Big Blue in front of a record-breaking crowd in the Spokane Arena.
The Vikings (2-2) picked up an impressive win over Oregon State on Saturday. The Beavers’ offense struggled mightily, going just 2-for-13 from deep in the ballgame, while Portland State shot 46% from the floor overall.
Second-year head coach Jase Coburn found his team’s identity as a fast-paced, up-tempo offense after a lackluster start to last season. The Vikings won 10 of their last 13 games and ranked 21st in tempo, according to KenPom’s ratings. Even with 10 newcomers, seven of whom are from Division I schools, the pace hasn’t slowed through four games this season.
Among those new faces is former UTEP Miner Jorell Saterfield, who leads the Vikings in scoring with 17.5 points per game. The 6-foot-4 wing tallied a season-high 26 points against the Beavers last week and has scored in double-figures in all four games while playing at least 30 minutes in three of those contests.
The only Viking who has seen more action than Saterfield to start the 2022-23 season is Cameron Parker, a transfer from Montana with four years of experience under his belt. He’s been a playmaker throughout his career, as he led the Big Sky Conference in assists per game each of the last two seasons. As a sophomore, he ranked fourth in the country with 7.8 assists per game.
Despite the blistering pace, Portland State’s offense is the 274th best in the country, according to KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings. Against a Zags’ team that likes to get out and run, there’s little hope that the Vikings can keep up with the third-best offense in the nation.
After knocking down a season-high nine 3-pointers versus Texas, Gonzaga shot 56.4% from the field against the Wildcats last time out, including seven 3-pointers. It’ll be interesting to see if the offense can continue to be efficient against the Vikings, who have allowed their opponents to shoot a combined 5-for-38 from deep over the previous two games.
Still, the Zags should find themselves playing the winner of Purdue or West Virginia on Friday night. Of course, no game can be taken for granted and history has proved Mark Few preps his squad for early season tournaments. Gonzaga is 23-3 in the month of November over the last four seasons.
Prediction: Zags 91, Vikings 67