It’s a telling statistic that Gonzaga has only played eight games and each of its four talented interior players has led the team in scoring at least once.
The foursome came up big Saturday, particularly Sam Dower, who sparked a first-half comeback and finished with 18 points in Gonzaga’s 85-67 victory over future WCC member Pacific in front of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Dower, Elias Harris, Kelly Olynyk and Przemek Karnowski combined to make 20 of 30 shots, 16 of 20 free throws, score 56 points and grab 27 rebounds.
“It changes up,” Harris said. “Sometimes it’s a guards’ night and there are mismatches for them. Tonight it was our turn to create and have the advantage.”
No. 12 Gonzaga improved to 8-0, matching the school’s best start since joining Division I in 1958-59. The 1995 Zags also opened 8-0.
“We’ve been very good so far,” said Mark Few, who earned his 350th win in his 14th season as GU’s head coach. “We don’t know how good the teams we’ve played will be; that’ll be determined in the next couple months.”
Pacific (3-4), which defeated defending WCC champ Saint Mary’s 76-66 last weekend, scored the first six points and led 18-10. Gonzaga shored up its defense and scored 39 points in the final 12:30 to take a commanding 49-34 lead at half.
Dower, who didn’t start, went 5 of 5 and scored 14 points in the first half. Olynyk added 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting and Harris chipped in eight points.
“Earlier in the season shots I usually make weren’t falling, I wasn’t rebounding as well as I should have and defensively I wasn’t playing as well as I wanted to,” said Dower, whose nine rebounds were one shy of his career high. “Coach Few said Pacific was a tough team so we had tough practices. We were battling, getting deep post touches and boxing out and rebounding, and we tried to carry that into the game.
“We just had that hungry mentality.”
That was apparent with Karnowski, who had a stretch where he hit a jump hook and made a diving save to keep a rebound alive in front of Gonzaga’s bench that led to an Olynyk layup. Karnowski then blocked a shot and got in the middle of a rugby scrum for a loose ball. He finished with six points and six rebounds and countless bruises.
“He’s rebounding the ball 200 percent better than when he touched down here in September, and that’s a toughness deal,” Few said. “He’s playing more physical around the basket. He’s holding his post and he made a couple nice post moves when they were banging him a little bit.”
Olynyk played just 18 minutes but he contributed 15 points and eight boards. Gonzaga dominated the rebounding (39-25) and had a 15-3 edge in second-chance points.
“We have four really strong bigs and each one has a unique style,” said guard Kevin Pangos, who finished with 12 points, three assists and three steals. “They pound the glass, duck in hard and post up. That’s tough for teams to handle and we have four guys that can do that. It wears other teams out.”
Pacific was led by Travis Fulton’s 15 points.
Percentages: FG .469, FT .579. 3-Point Goals: 10-19, .526 (Fulton 3-4, McCloud 2-3, De Souza 2-3, Bock 1-2, Harris 1-2, Rivera 1-3, Taku 0-1, Beatty 0-1). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 2 (Fulton, Harris). Turnovers: 11 (Gill 2, Taku 2, McCloud, Fulton, Thomas, Beatty, Llewellyn, Rivera). Steals: 6 (McCloud 2, Taku 2, Gill, Harris). Technical Fouls: Harris.
Percentages: FG .475, FT .821. 3-Point Goals: 6-23, .261 (Bell, Jr. 3-9, Pangos 2-6, Landry Edi 1-2, Hart 0-1, Harris 0-1, Olynyk 0-1, Stockton 0-1, Dranginis 0-2). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 1 (Karnowski). Turnovers: 8 (Bell, Jr. 2, Karnowski 2, Stockton 2, Landry Edi, Harris). Steals: 7 (Pangos 3, Dower, Landry Edi, Olynyk, Stockton). Technical Fouls: None.
Halftime – Gonzaga 49-34. A – 6,000.