Kevin Pangos, the nation. The nation, Kevin Pangos.
Gonzaga’s freshman guard hit nine 3-pointers and scored 33 points, sparking the Bulldogs past rival Washington State 89-81 Monday night in front of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center and a nationwide audience on ESPN.
Pangos, making his first start, put on a show from the outset, burying two 3s in the first 95 seconds to give Gonzaga a lead it would never relinquish. He had six 3s in the first half and finished 9 of 13 from long distance, tying Dan Dickau’s school record.
“It was special,” said Pangos, who also handed out six assists and made 6 of 6 free throws. “It felt great, but it’s just nice to get the win. We’re 2-0 and we’re trying to get build a great season.”
The 22nd-ranked Bulldogs led by as many as 21 – WSU’s winning margin over GU last year in Pullman – but the Cougars charged back in the final 7 minutes, closing within 77-73 with a 3-point barrage of their own. DaVonte Lacy connected on three 3s and Mike Ladd added another during a 2 minute, 30-second stretch that was aided by a trio of Zag turnovers.
WSU (0-1) crept within 81-78 on Reggie Moore’s three free throws and 84-81 on Moore’s 3-pointer with 27.3 seconds left. Gonzaga center Robert Sacre, who finished 13 of 13 at the free-throw line, made one free throw and, after the Cougars misfired on a 3-pointer, Pangos added two free throws as Gonzaga held on for the victory.
“That was one heck of a game,’ Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “I thought we were really in attack mode from the jump. We weathered some really serious storms throughout and we kind of outlasted them. It was definitely a pretty high level performance offensively from both teams.”
Pangos, fellow freshman Gary Bell Jr. and sophomore forward Mathis Mönninghoff carried Gonzaga after seniors Sacre and Marquise Carter went to the bench early in the first half, each with two fouls. Treys by Pangos and Bell gave GU a 20-10 lead. Pangos drove and fed Elias Harris for a layup to bump the margin to 12.
“It was mostly great shooting on Gonzaga’s part,” Cougars coach Ken Bone said. “There were a few times we really did guard pretty well, had a hand up in their face and those kids just lit it up.”
Pangos and Bell scored 19 of GU’s first 26 points. The Bulldogs’ lead swelled to 35-23 on Sam Dower’s 18-foot jumper, but WSU’s Brock Motum triggered a comeback. His layup and putback trimmed Gonzaga’s lead to 41-32 at half.
Sacre, who played just three minutes in the first half, quickly made up for lost time with four points in the first 3:30 of the second half. Pangos buried a couple more 3s and Gonzaga’s lead swelled to 60-39.
“We call him ‘The Machine’,” said Sacre, who finished with 15 points, 10 boards and three blocks, a couple key swats in the last few minutes. “He’s like a vending machine. You know what you’re getting when you put a coin in.”
WSU nearly climbed out of a 20-point deficit with 10:45 left. Motum, who led five players in double figures with 17 points, started the comeback with a layup, 3-pointer and a putback basket. Lacy, a freshman guard from Tacoma, connected on three 3s as Gonzaga’s lead dwindled.
“I thought our guys bought into what we were trying to do on both ends of the court,” Bone said.
Gonzaga held off WSU by hitting its free throws down the stretch.
“What a blessing to have a ‘5’ that goes 13 of 13 at the free throw line,” Few said.
Harris had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Bell Jr. added 14 points. Moore finished with 14 points, five assists and three steals for WSU.