Kevin Pangos has tortured WSU the last three years but not Wednesday night at the Arena. It hardly mattered as the Zags went inside and roughed up the Cougars 81-66.
Pangos didn't score, picked up four fouls and get drilled in the side of his head. He only played 23 minutes but the Zags kept humming along offensively with Gary Bell Jr. and Kyle Dranginis taking on more ball-handling duties.
--Pangos stayed on the court for a minute or two to collect himself after he was splattered on a collision with Jordan Railey on a drive to the basket. He insisted he was fine but he endured a rare off night. He never found his comfort zone at either end of the court. WSU coach Ernie Kent instructed his players to take the ball at Pangos, who was in foul trouble most of the way.
“I don’t know (what happened); I know it hurt,” Pangos said. “Side of the head, ear. I just needed a second to let it settle in and I was fine.”
Josh Perkins is sidelined 6-8 weeks with a broken jaw, leaving GU without its backup point guard. Bell was solid filling in for Pangos. He only scored two points, but he had four assists and just one turnover.
(Perkins had surgery Tuesday. He said his jaw will be wired for 3-4 weeks.)
“I thought it was really smooth,” coach Mark Few said of the point-guard play without Pangos. “Gary handled it, no turnovers and made simple plays. We can play through (Kyle) Wiltjer, (Byron) Wesley or Kyle (Dranginis) or Silas (Melson).”
Pangos missed all six of his shot attempts in going scoreless for the first time in 113 career games. His previous low was two points (against St. Thomas Aquinas earlier this season and vs. LCSC as a sophomore).
--For Gonzaga, this game was all about post touches. The Zags didn’t shoot well from the perimeter in the first half but they didn’t need to. Przemek Karnowski (7-1, 285) worked over Junior Longrus (6-7, 240) and Jordan Railey (7-0, 245) for 18 points as GU led 39-29 at half.
WSU finally doubled Karnowski in the second half but the tradeoff was giving Wesley and Wiltjer room to operate. Karnowski had two nice passes to Wesley for layups and he fed Wiltjer for an open 3.
The big man had a hockey assist when he dished out of a double team to Bell, who found Dranginis for an open 3.
“Gonzaga is every bit as advertised,” Kent said. “Everybody thinks they’re just a guard-oriented team. Their bigs are just as good. They’re skilled. They can score with the right, score with the left, they can score out of double teams. They are very good at passing out of double teams. They give you a lot of problems unless you can match up with that size.”
WSU didn’t match up, and eventually went with power forward Josh Hawkinson (6-10, 245) at center and Brent Boese (6-7, 230) at the ‘4’, not so much to defend GU’s interior players but to make it tougher for the Zags to guard at the other end.
It worked, to a degree, as Hawkinson delivered 18 points, slipping away from Karnowski for an open 3, and Boese nailed a spot-up 3 on the break.
--Wesley scored on the break and on his customary drives into the lane. He moved well without the ball when GU’s posts were doubled and was the recipient of a couple of easy layups. He had 20 points on 10-of-14 shooting.
“B Wes was unbelievable tonight, not just the scoring, just his presence on the floor,” Few said. “He was physical, tough, a calming influence for us on offense and defense, and we had him doing a lot of different things.”
--Dranginis had a stat line reminiscent of many of his games last season: Five points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists. His ‘D’ forced a couple of turnovers by WSU star DaVonte Lacy.
“It was great having Kyle back,” Few said. “He was a big factor getting his hands on a lot of balls and getting us through the times when Kevin wasn’t on the floor.”
STATS OF NOTE
--GU led for 38 minutes, 14 seconds; WSU for 15 seconds.
--Karnowski’s big night makes him one of five Zags now averaging double figures. Bell dropped out of double figures at 9.6.
--Bell’s 2 points was his season low. He was held scoreless by Arizona in the NCAA tournament game last March.
--WSU’s 52-percent shooting was the first time a Zag opponent made above 49 percent.
--The Zags won the glass 36-23. They’ve outrebounded every foe this season.
--Karnowski’s 22 points led GU. He’s the sixth different player (Wiltjer, Pangos, Bell, Nunez, Sabonis) to lead Gonzaga in scoring. Oddly, that list doesn’t include Wesley, the team’s second-leading scorer who has been in double figures seven times and has a pair of 20-point games.
--GU had three players score at least 20 points (Karno 22, Wiltjer 21, Wesley 20) for the first time since Davidson game in the 2009 Battle in Seattle. In that one, Elias Harris had 27 points, Robert Sacre 23 and Demetri Goodson 22.
Wesley: “We all kind of had a bitter taste from the way the last game (Arizona) ended. We wanted to come out early and play hard, and I think we did a good job.”
Few: “We defended better in the first half and then we just started trading baskets with them in the second half.”
WSU’s Kent: “In the first half, we gave up four and-ones to the big fella (Karnowski) and he made us pay every time, and we missed two key free throw blockouts where they scored. There’s a 10-point difference going into the half right there.”
WSU’s Lacy: “Yeah, I think he (Kent) reiterated that we’ve got to play to the end and he said, ‘Don’t get too chippy’ because they’ve got to come down to play in Pullman next year. I’ve got full confidence that next year it’s going to be a really good battle and just make sure we don’t let our emotions get the best of us.”
Few: “I was really worried about us emotionally coming out of Arizona and with UCLA looming this weekend on short turnaround. I tried to get our guys amped up for this thing and for the most part I thought we played hard and with a purpose.”