PULLMAN – Kelly Olynyk leapt over chairs, climbed into the bleachers and slapped hands with Gonzaga supporters, bouncing, smiling, ignoring the cut-your-hair taunts from the few Washington State students who remained.
The drama of No. 10 Gonzaga’s 71-69 triumph over WSU at Beasley Coliseum did nothing to faze the affable 7-footer, whose 22 second-half points helped the Bulldogs past a Cougars team that fit a season’s worth of clutch shots into the game’s final five minutes.
“I could see where my opportunities were,” Olynyk said, “and I guess I went out and seized them.”
Guess so. But Olynyk’s yeoman-like effort might have gone for naught had Kevin Pangos not banked home a running layup with 2.2 seconds left, breaking a 69-69 tie after WSU guard DaVonte Lacy had scored five seconds earlier.
WSU (5-4) made its share of big-time, game-saving shots. Gonzaga just made the final one.
“That was just a tough shot,” said Lacy, who scored a career-high 22 points after missing four games with a left knee injury. “There’s two hands, maybe three, I don’t know. But he hit it right off the glass and he made it.”
That was after Pangos, who made 2 of 12 field-goal attempts, had dribbled the length of the floor following Lacy’s game-tying layup with 7.8 seconds left.
Pangos, a sophomore, said he first looked to see if Gonzaga had called timeout. It hadn’t. So, he said, “I just got the inbound and looked at the clock and saw 7 seconds, and my instinct was to just go be aggressive – try to get fouled, try to get a layup and put pressure on the defense, not really settle for a bad shot. That’s all I really tried to do and I hit a shot. Finally.”
Gonzaga (9-0) seemed so close to pulling away so many times. There was the Bulldogs’ 48-39 lead midway through the second half when WSU looked like it was running out of gas. But a jumper by Mike Ladd and an alley-oop slam dunk from Lacy to D.J. Shelton gave the Cougars new life.
Until, that is, Elias Harris drilled a 3-pointer with the shot clock running down, then Mike Hart followed by sinking a wide-open three to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 56-45 with 7:29 left.
But again, Lacy had other plans. He made a 3-pointer to trim the lead back to eight, then followed an Olynyk bucket by sticking another 3-pointer to cut it back to seven.
A pair of 3-pointers by Brock Motum – who tied Harris with a game-high 23 points – and another by Lacy scratched the Cougars back to a 60-60 tie, the crimson portion of the 9,367 in attendance working themselves into a frenzy.
Until Olynyk rebounded a Harris miss, scored and was fouled with 2:56 left. He made the free throw. But free throws were also made by Motum and Lacy during the next minute-plus – two by each player – to put WSU back in front, 64-63, its first lead since 36-35.
Until Olynyk scored inside again 22 seconds later and was fouled again. He missed the free throw. But Hart tracked down the board, and Olynyk ended the possession by netting a 3-pointer from the top of the key for a four-point Gonzaga lead.
“He’s a good player and he converted pretty well down the end,” said Motum, who jawed with Olynyk throughout the game and was called for a technical in the first half. “He made some big plays.”
The Bulldogs got it back after Lacy was called for an offensive foul, but Pangos missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Lacy fired and missed a 3 on the other end. WSU tracked down the rebound and Motum launched and made an almost impossibly long 3 from the left wing, cutting Gonzaga’s lead to one point with 14 seconds left.
Gary Bell missed the first of two free throws after WSU fouled. He made the second. And Lacy again put life into the Cougars by slashing to the rim and tying the game.
Then Pangos won it.
“I thought we had situations where we could have backed down and maybe thrown in the towel and we would not let up,” WSU coach Ken Bone said. “We battled through some adversity and showed some toughness.”
More than usual. Just not quite as much as Gonzaga.