The 3-point shot giveth, sometimes for both teams.
Such was the case Monday night at McCarthey Athletic Center as Gonzaga, behind a school-record-tying nine 3-pointers from freshman Kevin Pangos, built a 21-point second-half lead.
Then Washington State came firing back, hitting five 3-pointers down the stretch, pulled within three multiple times, the final one on Reggie Moore’s 3-pointer with 40 seconds left.
But that was as close as WSU could get, as Gonzaga’s Robert Sacre and Pangos hit their free throws and the Zags held on, 89-81, before the usual sellout crowd of 6,000 on Monday night.
Pangos, making his first start, was positively Dan Dickau-like, hitting 7 of his first 10 long-range jumpers, finishing 9-of-13 en route to a game-high 33 points. The nine made 3-pointers ties the school record number Dickau posted twice in his career, and was the most by a Bulldog in McCarthey. But in this one, Pangos wasn’t alone.
Another freshman, Gary Bell Jr., and Mathis Monninghoff added a couple each as the Zags had a 12-point edge from beyond the arc – though that was a lot wider until the final 5 minutes.
Brock Motum led Washington State in its season opener with 17 points and eight rebounds. Moore added 14 and Mike Ladd had 13 off the bench.
The Cougars hosted the Zags last year in Pullman and it wasn’t close – after halftime. Gonzaga was within 30-24 but WSU, behind Klay Thompson’s 24 points, six rebounds, seven steals, six assists and one block – on 7-footer Sacre at the rim – pulled away for a 81-59 victory.
Thompson was absent, home in Southern California, waiting for the NBA to figure out its labor troubles, and so was Abe Lodwick, out with a sprained foot.
Without their starting power forward, it would seem WSU might be vulnerable inside. That wasn’t the case, though the Bulldogs’ bigs, Sacre and Elias Harris, got going a bit after halftime, with Sacre posting 15 points and Harris finishing with 14. They both had 10 rebounds. But it was beyond the arc where Gonzaga did its damage.
The Bulldogs (2-0) jumped out to an 8-1 lead by the first media time out, with freshman Pangos hitting two 3s against a Cougar zone.
But that was just the start. In the first 14 minutes, Gonzaga had nine 3-pointers, was shooting 60 percent from beyond the arc and had built a 32-19 lead, and forcing the Cougars to play man defense.
And they were doing all of the damage without Sacre, their senior center who picked up two quick fouls and sat the final 13 minutes, 27 seconds of the first half.
When Pangos, from Ontario, Canada, hit his sixth 3-pointer of the half with 2:57 left, Gonzaga had built a 15-point lead, 40-25. But GU would score only one more point before intermission.
Moore and Motum took control offensively for WSU, with Moore powering past David Stockton on a drive and Motum feeding Patrick Simon for a layup, then following Faisal Aden’s late miss with a reverse layup near the buzzer to cut GU’s halftime edge to single digits, 41-32.
The Zags had eight offensive rebounds in the opening half and four of those led to 3-pointers. That’s the same number – in 18 attempts – GU buried in the entire game last year. The Bulldogs had 10 – in 20 attempts – in the first half of this one.