PULLMAN – In a game of can-you-top-this? in the closing minutes, Kevin Pangos made sure Gonzaga came out on top against rival Washington State.
Pangos, who made nine 3-pointers and scored 33 points in GU’s win over WSU last season, missed opened shot after open shot Wednesday at Beasley Coliseum – until it mattered the most. The sophomore guard drove the length of the court and hit a short bank shot with 2.2 seconds left, carrying No. 10 Gonzaga to a wild 71-69 victory over the Cougars.
Pangos was 1 of 11 from the field (1 of 5 on 3-pointers) before nailing the game-winner.
The Bulldogs improved to 9-0 with their closest win of the season. WSU (5-4) led most of the first half and made a spirited comeback in the closing minutes, taking a 64-63 lead on DaVonte Lacy’s two free throws with 1:29 left.
Gonzaga went back in front when junior forward Kelly Olynyk drove around Brock Motum for a basket while being fouled with 1:07 left. Olynyk, who scored all 22 of his points in the second half, missed the free throw, but Mike Hart, who had drained a timely 3-pointer earlier in the half, grabbed the offensive rebound.
GU worked the shot clock down before the 7-foot Olynyk connected on a 3-pointer to give GU a seemingly safe 68-64 lead with 36 seconds remaining. That certainly appeared to be the case when WSU was whistled for an offensive foul, but Pangos missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 26.6 seconds left.
Motum, who finished with five 3-pointers and a team-high 23 points, hit a long 3 to close Gonzaga’s lead to one with 14 seconds left. The Cougars fouled Gary Bell Jr., who made 1 of 2 free throws to bump GU’s lead to 69-67.
Lacy, who had missed the last four games with a knee injury, scored on a driving layup to tie it, but he left enough time for Pangos to drive down the right side of the key and coax in the game-winner. Motum attempted to tip Lacy’s desperation shot from 65 feet but it was off target and Gonzaga players poured onto the court to celebrate a hard-fought victory.
For just the second time this season, Gonzaga trailed at halftime. The Bulldogs, much like they did in erasing a 24-23 deficit against Clemson at the Old Spice Classic, quickly surged in front in the second half.
Bell’s 3-pointer gave Gonzaga a 44-36 lead. It was 56-45 with 7:30 remaining after Harris and Hart hit back-to-back 3s.
Lacy and Motum sparked WSU’s comeback. Lacy, who finished with four 3-pointers and 22 points, started it with a pair of 3s. Motum added two more 3s and another long-distance trey from Lacy evened the score at 60, setting up a thrilling final 3 minutes.
Harris scored 23 points to lead Gonzaga, which entertains No. 13 Illinois on Saturday. Bell added 14 points and Pangos finished with eight. Motum and Lacy combined for 45 points. Mike Ladd was next with seven points for the Cougars, who face visiting Fresno State on Sunday.
WSU held the lead most of the first half, though Gonzaga poked its head in front on a couple of occasions. GU scored eight unanswered points to take an 11-7 lead, but the Cougars responded with 12 straight points, capped by a Lacy’s 3-pointer.
Gonzaga caught up again at 25-all on Pangos’ 3-pointer, the first field goal by a Zag other than Harris or Bell. The Bulldogs went in front when Motum was whistled for a technical foul – he’d been involved in a dust-up with Olynyk on a previous play – and Pangos made both free throws.
Motum answered with a 3-pointer from the wing and Ladd scooped up a loose ball and hit a floater in the lane just before the buzzer, giving WSU a 31-27 halftime lead.