Back with a day-after post on Gonzaga's 85-67 victory over Pacific on Saturday night.
—Pop quiz: Name the Gonzaga player who ranks among the scoring leaders but hasn’t led GU in scoring in a game this season? Answer below.
—Gonzaga simply worked over Pacific inside with the foursome of Sam Dower, Elias Harris, Kelly Olynyk and Przemek Karnowski. The Tigers were in serious foul trouble at half (two interior players with three fouls and two more with two).
GU racked up baskets, free throws and rebounds throughout, but it was the play of Dower and Olynyk in the first half that wiped out an early eight-point deficit.
“We have great depth and balance,” coach Mark Few said. “It’s going to be different guys every night; I don’t think it’s always going to be the same guys. I thought Sam got in there early and established himself in the post. I thought by and large our bigs played really good tonight. They were efficient, tough, finishing plays and rebounded the ball well.”
Four quality bigs is a luxury few teams have — two 7-footers (Olynyk and Karnowski), one a left-hander with a soft shooting touch who weighs 305 pounds (PK), one a left-hander with a knack for scoring (Dower), one strong, mobile, a capable scorer and accomplished rebounder (Harris), and another that’s becoming an inside-outside threat (Olynyk).
Dower, who gave himself a harsh review of his performance in previous games, was solid at both ends of the court. He tracked down a rebound that led to Guy Landry Edi’s lone 3 of the game, another key basket in GU’s big first-half spurt.
“Even though there wasn’t much to take out of that game the other night (vs. LCSC), I think he was disappointed with how he played, how he defended and he took it to heart,” Few said. “He really got us going in that first run. It’s very important we establish ourselves in the post, regardless of what they’re doing, fronting or standing us up and playing us physical. He went in and accepted that and asserted himself, and I thought he rebounded it well in traffic.”
Olynyk was equally effective at both ends of the floor with 15 points, eight boards in just 18 minutes. He made a nifty move across the lane to score with his left hand.
—Kevin Pangos had 12 points, four coming at the FT line after technicals on Pacific coach Bob Thomason and Tigers forward Trevin Harris.
Thomason was irritated when Pacific, unaware of dwindling time on the shot clock, didn’t get a shot attempt when the clock reached zero. The turnover caused the coach to swing his right arm in frustration. GU came down and Bell drained a 3-pointer, extending GU’s lead to 35-27.
At the other end, Pangos tried to intercept a pass to the wing and bumped into a Pacific player. The ball went of the Tigers’ hands and out of bounds for a turnover. Thomason, already boiling, protested to the officials that Pangos should have been called for a foul and was tagged with a ‘T’. Pangos made both FTs and GU led by 10.
The other ‘T’ came early in the second half and Pangos’ FTs gave GU a 19-point lead.
—Karnowski received a couple of the loudest ovations with hustle plays. It takes the 7-1, 305-pounder a while to fall down, almost in distinct stages, but he’s shown he’s more than willing to hit the floor for rebounds and loose balls.
“We love seeing that stuff from him,” Dower said. “He’s starting to recognize that he can be a force. His confidence is growing.”
“The coaches have been pushing him to do that and you’re seeing it more and more in every game,” Pangos said. “For him to do that at 7-1, it helps his game and it helps our team.”
—Kyle Dranginis went from 30 to zero in 48 hours, but the redshirt freshman guard still made some contributions. He missed all three of his shots, but he had three rebounds and three assists in 18 turnover-free minutes.
Dranginis, who scored 30 points in the victory over LCSC, appears to be solidly in the rotation at the ‘2’ or ‘3’.
—Free-throw shooting has been a sore spot all season for Gonzaga, but the Zags made 23 of 28 vs. Pacific (82.1 percent), easily their highest of the season.
It’ll be an important stat to monitor. Gonzaga hasn’t been in a game closer than eight points, but that will almost certainly change with the upcoming schedule. GU’s bigs tend to draw fouls and they’ll likely spend considerable time at the stripe, much like Robert Sacre, an outstanding FT shooter, did a year ago.
“It’s the only way really you can stop our posts is if you foul them,” Few said. “They post legally and they’re tough when they post strong. They’re good finishers and have good hands and can all catch and pass adeptly.”
STATS OF NOTE
—Dower has made 24 of his last 32 shots (75 percent). He’s at 63 percent for the season.
—GU committed a season low eight turnovers.
—Pacific made 47 percent of its FGs, 10 of 19 3s (52.6%), but scored 67 points, one below its season average.
—Gonzaga’s bench was outscored 44-24 by Pacific. The Tigers used 13 players.
—Dranginis leads the team in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.63). Pangos is next at 2.58, Stockton is at 2.13.
Harris, on Pacific’s physical style: “They didn’t give up or take any crap from anybody. That’s a good sign for a team joining the WCC pretty soon. Good team.”
Few, on PK: “You can see the improvement coming. It might not be in great stats, but he’s obviously a more physical player and doing a better job rebounding.”
Pangos, on defensive improvement after Pacific led 18-10 early: “We weren’t following the scout. We weren’t communicating when we were switching. We had to settle down and follow the plan. They ran a lot of different sets so it was hard to realize what they were running, but we did a better job communicating and not leaving guys open for easy shots.”
Harris, on GU’s slow start: “That’s one thing need to be aware of. We can’t be sleepy going into games; we have to come out and respond right away from the tip. We talked about it after the game.”
ANSWER: Pangos, last year’s leading scorer, is averaging 10.9 points (third on the team), but hasn’t led the team in scoring through eight games.