PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)—Gonzaga lost track of Portland’s Jared Stohl, and it almost cost the No. 19 Bulldogs.
Stohl, who made six of nine 3-point attempts, missed one as time ran out Saturday night, preserving an 81-78 victory for Gonzaga.
Matt Bouldin had 20 points and nine assists for the Bulldogs in their 13th straight victory over the Pilots.
The Zags (12-3) led by as many as 13 points, but allowed the Pilots to close within three with less than 10 seconds left on Stohl’s 3-pointer.
Bol Kong missed a pair of free throws with 4.6 seconds left, but Stohl’s next 3-pointer to tie it hit the rim and bounced off as time ran out.
“I saw his last look, and frankly, I don’t think he saw the rim,” Portland coach Eric Reveno said. “He just let it fly and it was pretty impressive.”
Freshman Elias Harris of Germany had 18 points for Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference opener for both teams.
Robin Smeulders, who had the flu earlier in the week, had 24 points and Stohl added 18 for the Pilots (9-6).
“I thought we defended well in the first half, then we lost Stohl,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “He just stared us down and did what he does, which is shoot threes.”
Boosted by an enthusiastic purple-clad student section, the Pilots kept pressuring the Bulldogs. Stohl made a 3-pointer to narrow it to 53-51 with 11:10 to go.
Gonzaga responded a 9-1 run capped by Bouldin’s layup that made it 62-52 with 7:29 left. Kong’s 3-pointer that made it 68-55 with about 5 minutes to go appeared to put it out of reach.
Portland again rallied, closing to 70-66 when Smeulders hit a pair of free throws, before making their scrappy push in the final minute.
“We’ve been in close games like that many, many times this year already,” Bouldin said. “Once we focus on what we need to do down the stretch, we usually get it done.”
Portland opened with the slim lead early but Gonzaga pulled ahead 10-7 on Harris’ long jumper and a dunk. The Bulldogs extended the lead to 19-9 on Kelly Olynyk’s layup.
Portland recovered when Stohl’s 3-pointer got the Pilots to 30-26. Luke Sikma’s reverse layup made it 30-28 with less than five minutes to go before the half. Sikma is the son of seven-time NBA All-Star Jack Sikma, now an assistant with the Houston Rockets.
As quickly as Portland got back in the streaky game, Gonzaga pulled away. Bouldin hit back-to-back long jumpers to make it 42-32 and the Bulldogs led 42-36 at the half.
The Bulldogs, looking for their 10th straight WCC title, were coming off an 85-83 victory over Illinois. Gonzaga’s only losses this season were to No. 10 Michigan State, No. 5 Duke and Wake Forest.
Portland, coming off a 67-57 victory over Army, has not defeated Gonzaga since Feb. 19, 2003, a 72-68 upset in Spokane.
Portland Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard was at the game. The announced crowd of 5,003 was the second largest in Chiles Center history.