Kevin Pangos was in the middle of a post-game interview when a highlight on a nearby television caught his eye.
A slight smile formed on Pangos’ face as he watched a replay of one of his seven 3-pointers that helped lift No. 13 Gonzaga past Baylor 94-87 Friday night at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
A packed house of 6,000 probably had as much fun watching the teams put on a wildly entertaining offensive display as Pangos did witnessing that 3-pointer disappear in the net.
“We knew that it wasn’t going to be a blowout game,” said senior forward Elias Harris, who finished with 17 points and a team-high seven rebounds. “They’re really good, well coached and stupid athletic.
“It’s insane how athletic they are. We think we’re athletic, but I think there’s a new definition after tonight.
“But we stuck to our concepts and we played smart and hard.”
And they found the hot hand, which belonged to Pangos, who came in shooting just 30 percent in his last five games and 38 percent on the season.
The sophomore guard hit 10 of 13 shots, including 7 of 10 3s, en route to a season-high 31 points.
He also had three assists and his lone turnover came with 6 seconds remaining.
“When you’re a basketball player you love that,” Pangos said after a shootout that saw both teams shoot above 50 percent and combine for 110 second-half points. “You love defense, too, but you love the high-scoring games. They never let us relax. Every time we got a double-digit lead they came back and made big plays. Credit to them, but our team stuck with it.”
Kelly Olynyk had 21 points and Gary Bell Jr. added 12 points, five assists and three steals for Gonzaga (12-1), which repelled several rallies by the Bears (8-4).
Bell had the unenviable task of defending Pierre Jackson, a 5-foot-10 playmaker who had 26 points, six assists and seven turnovers.
Several of Jackson’s assists went to 7-1 freshman Isaiah Austin, who had 20 points and buried one of his two 3-pointers from 23 feet, and high-flying 6-9 forward Cory Jefferson, who added 13 points.
“Pierre Jackson has to be the fastest guard I’ve ever played against,” Bell said. “When he’s coming on the break it’s kind of impossible to keep him in front without getting a blocking foul.
“Luckily we pulled out the win. He didn’t get it going as much as Brandon Paul did (while scoring 35 points in Illinois’ win over GU).”
Gonzaga sputtered early, taking several shots early in the shot clock and falling behind 24-18 after six quick points by Jackson.
Bell punctuated a patient possession against Baylor’s zone with a 3-pointer and Sam Dower followed with a putback. Pangos’ 3 started a 9-0 run as Gonzaga led 38-33 at halftime.
“It was Kevin’s night,” Harris said. “He was shooting it really well and it’s our job to feed him and let him create and make plays.”
GU made 19 of 29 field-goal attempts in the second half and continued to put pressure on Baylor’s interior defense.
Gonzaga finished 23 of 34 at the free-throw line to Baylor’s 11 of 13.
“We were settling, and probably all teams struggle with that,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “They were playing us soft on a lot of our ball screens so everybody was open on the first pass and you have to be able to turn that first one down.
“Once we got through that, we were really efficient.”