Well, was that any fun last night? It was great fun, until you have to try to write a coherent game story that was due at 10:15!
Got a conference call with Illinois coach John Groce in a bit, so we'll put together our day-after WSU post and get on with the day.
First, the links: My game story for Idaho readers (didn't quite make that 10:15 deadline!), WSU beat writer Christian Caple's gamer, John Blanchette's column, Tyler Tjomsland's photo gallery and an A.P. recap. Christian has more video/quotes from WSU coach Ken Bone (pictured above) and Cougar players here.
Much more below.
—In posting a GU notebook following Monday’s media day, I mentioned that I always try to gather as much information as possible during those 20-25 minutes and then whittle it down to the notes that eventually make the newspaper.
One of the items left on the cutting-room floor is far more relevant today. I typically arrive at the MAC 75-95 minutes before games, chat up whatever GU official is around and see which players are on the court warming up. A couple of times I’ve noticed Kevin Pangos has an interesting pre-game ritual.
He hits the floor 90 minutes before tip and then spends 20-30 minutes working on a variety of shots. Most of the initial ones are what you might see in a game of H-O-R-S-E – flip shots, underhand, hook shots, off-balance, one foot runners/tear drops, bank shots at odd angles. At times, he looks like a quarterback throwing from different arm angles.
“I think of it as almost another time to get better,” Pangos said Monday. “More than anything I’m trying to get a feel for the ball, so I take some hook shots, floaters, some ridiculous shots just to get that feeling. I do some pull-ups to get my footwork down, a lot of floaters and pull-ups because those shots don’t just happen. If you catch-and-shoot, you catch-and-shoot, but those others are ones you have to create and you might be off balance.”
Bingo. Probably somewhere in that routine was the off-balance 4-foot banker that resulted in the game-winner with 2.2 seconds last night. It’s been described as a layup in several accounts, but that’s not quite accurate. It was a challenged, right-hand flip shot over his right shoulder with just enough touch and arc to kiss off the glass and find the net. Nothing simple about it. Now, Pangos doesn’t have same routine on the road (GU arrived at Beasley 75 minutes before tipoff), but no doubt that game-winner was stored somewhere in his memory bank.
He chuckled late Wednesday night when I mentioned Monday’s conversation. “Those are the kinds of shots, exactly,” he said. “I don’t have the same routine on the road, but that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.”
I’d heard Pangos got the pre-game routine from John Stockton. Not true, Pangos said. He made it up himself.
—Gonzaga doesn’t win that game without the contributions of Mike Hart. The 6-6 forward didn’t have an eye-catching stat line (3 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal), but he made several huge plays at both ends. He drew three charging fouls on WSU players. His offensive rebound and assist led to Gary Bell Jr.’s 3-pointer that gave GU a 44-36 lead. Hart hit a 3-pointer when his defender sagged off in help defense.
But his biggest play was probably snagging an offensive rebound after Kelly Olynyk’s missed free throw with just over a minute left. The extra possession resulted in an Olynyk 3-pointer and a 68-64 lead with 36 seconds left.
“I kept sneaking around the back side and I knew I had a chance at it and I went and got it,” Hart said.
Hart started the second half and played 16 minutes.
“I felt like we struggled a little in the first half with defense and rebounding and kind of digging in and getting stops,” he said. “So when I came in for my little stint (of 4 minutes in the first half) that’s what I tried to bring. The coaches saw that and decided to start me in the second half. I tried to do the same stuff in the second half.”
—Gonzaga doesn’t win that game without Kelly Olynyk’s 22-point second half (after a scoreless first half). And it doesn’t win that game without Elias Harris and
Guy Landry Edi’s free throw with 6:56 left was the first point not scored by Harris or
Harris didn’t slow down in the second half. He finished with 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting, six rebounds, three assists and four steals.
—Olynyk was 10 of 12 in the second half en route to his 22 points. He also had seven boards and a pair of assists.
“Our coaches told us their bigs weren’t going to foul,” Olynyk said. “They were going to play straight up and we could get anything we wanted down low, we just had to make shots. Their bigs had to stay in the game for them to be successful. We made shots, got it down low. I got going a bit and got some confidence and was able to do a little more with the ball.”
STATS OF NOTE
—John Blanchette keeps detailed historical records of GU’s program. GU is now 9-0, its best start as a D-I program (they joined D-I in 1958-59. Blanchette noted that GU opened the 1944 season 11-0.
—Hart is now 5 of 7 on 3-pointers this season.
—Hart’s streak of turnover-free minutes finally ended. He now has 1 turnover in 103 minutes played.
—Harris’ scoring average keeps climbing. He’s at 16.8 ppg.
—Sam Dower, battling the flu, played just nine minutes. Dower, Edi, Przemek Karnowski and Kyle Dranginis didn’t play in the second half. David Stockton played eight minutes in the second half, spelling Pangos,
—It looked like GU’s poor free-throw shooting might be its downfall Wednesday. The Zags made just 8 of 15 FTs, 4 of 8 in the second half. In the final 1:07, GU was 1 of 4. However, WSU wasn’t much better 11 of 18 (61.1 percent).
GU is at 60.9 percent for the season.
—Pangos hit 9 3s and scored 33 points in last year’s win over WSU but went 2 of 12 (1 of 5 from long distance) on Wednesday: “Way different (than last year). I’ll take those same shots every day, the exact same shots. They just weren’t falling. I always think, ‘Shoot when you’re hot, shoot to get hot.’ I didn’t want to take bad shots, but I was going to keep shooting if I was open. They still didn’t fall, but finally the last one did.”
—Hart, on his 3-pointer: ‘They were helping off me big time in the paint. Kelly made the right read and hit me in the corner. I just stepped up and knocked it down. When they’re sagging off me, that’s what I have to do.”
—Harris: “That’s one of the crazier games I’ve had in my four years. Ups and downs, it wasn’t our best game, we didn’t play really well. We just had to grind it out.”