Kevin Pangos has been at his best against two of Gonzaga’s biggest rivals.
The true freshman guard buried five 3-pointers and scored 27 points, his highest point total since torching Washington State for 33 points in an early-season win, to guide Gonzaga to a crucial 73-59 West Coast Conference men’s basketball victory over No. 16 Saint Mary’s in front of a packed house of 6,000 Thursday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The Bulldogs (19-4, 9-2 WCC) still need help to catch Saint Mary’s (22-3, 11-1), but Thursday’s decisive victory keeps their hopes alive of earning a 12th consecutive WCC title. GU entertains Loyola Marymount on Saturday while the Gaels take on Santa Clara.
Pangos, who snapped out of a shooting slump in Saturday’s win over Pepperdine, was 5 of 6 – the lone miss with 25 seconds left – from long distance. Pangos and fellow freshman guard Gary Bell Jr. came up with numerous key field goals as Gonzaga pulled away in the final 10 minutes to avenge a 21-point loss to the Gaels in Moraga, Calif., last month.
Leading 49-47 in a tense, back-and-forth contest, GU’s Robert Sacre hit a jump hook and Pangos followed with a high-arcing bank shot over a defender. After SMC’s Rob Jones scored on a putback, Pangos drilled a 3 from the corner, then drove the baseline and fed Bell, who connected on a trey just before the shot clock expired.
Gonzaga led 59-49, but Pangos wasn’t through. He hit another 3, holding his follow-through for a good 2 seconds, as the Bulldogs went in front 62-51 with 6:10 left.
Bell and Sacre each had 12 points and Elias Harris added 10 points and 10 rebounds. Gonzaga dominated the boards, 40-26. Sacre had nine rebounds.
Matthew Dellavedova led SMC with 20 points. He made 5 of 12 shots and 8 of 8 free throws.
Gonzaga led 14-8 after consecutive baskets by Sam Dower but the Gaels went on a 12-2 run to go in front 20-16. Pangos and Bell combined for 12 straight points, returning the lead to Gonzaga. Pangos hit back-to-back 3s and Bell added four more points, including a runner in the lane with the shot clock nearing zero that hiked Gonzaga’s lead to 30-25.
Pangos’ layup kept GU’s lead at five. Jones, who didn’t have a field goal until the 1:40 remained in the first meeting in Moraga, connected on a jumper after missing his first five shots, trimming GU’s lead to 34-31 at half.