LAHAINA – Facing a third game in as many days and an unrelenting Arkansas defense that contests every dribble and pass, fatigue hit Kevin Pangos hard in the first half.
He hid it well, but nobody in the cozy 2,400-seat Lahaina Civic Center was happier to see standard/TV timeouts and those precious seconds to catch your breath during free-throw attempts.
“I had my hands on my knees and I don’t usually do that,” said Pangos, who buried 7 of 8 3-pointers and scored a career-high 34 points to lead Gonzaga past Arkansas 91-81 Wednesday in what essentially turned into an indoor track meet.
The 11th-ranked Bulldogs (6-1) went 2-1 at the EA Sports Maui Invitational, settling for fifth place. Arkansas (4-2) finished sixth.
Coaches kept asking Pangos if he needed a break, but he declined.
“I got banged up pretty good,” he said. “In the heat of the game you want to keep playing and I knew after this we were done for the tournament so I fought through it.”
Pangos scored off the dribble and escaped from defenders for open 3s when Arkansas tried to trap. His curtain call came with 1:12 left and GU comfortably in front 85-67. He’d barely taken a seat before GU committed a foul, a turnover and missed a layup and the lead slipped to 11.
Pangos re-entered, and promptly hit a pair of free throws to set his career high, eclipsing his 33 points against Washington State as a freshman.
“You have to take your hat off to Pangos,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “This guy played 39 minutes, man, and it seemed like he played perfect basketball.”
Gonzaga, in general, was sharp against the Razorbacks’ pressure. It helped having four ball-handlers in Pangos, David Stockton, Gary Bell Jr. and Kyle Dranginis. The Zags often pierced Arkansas’ full-court pressure and converted for easy baskets.
In the half-court, they scored consistently on post feeds to Sam Dower (19 points) and Przemek Karnowski, who had six points early before getting into foul trouble. Bell, stuck on the bench with two first-half fouls, had 10 of his 13 points in the second half.
“They play fast. It reminded me of an AAU game,” Bell said. “Coach (Mark) Few kept harping on us, ‘Stay aggressive, you’re going to turn the ball over, just make a good play the next time down.’ ”
The Bulldogs finished with just 11 turnovers and had seven steals, one more than the Razorbacks. GU made 12 3-pointers and shot 54.5 percent.
“I don’t know that we took a bad shot,” Few said. “We walked through some stuff on a tennis court (Wednesday morning). For them to absorb what we were trying to do, just a fabulous job by the guys.”
Gonzaga led 23-15, but started running short of bodies when Dower (with 11:39 left), Bell (10:19) and Karnowski (8:02) each picked up their second fouls. Seldom-used freshman Luke Meikle joined Dranginis and Drew Barham to form an unlikely frontcourt. Meikle scored four points and blocked two shots as GU led 38-31 at half.
Dower scored 17 second-half points and Pangos never slowed down. He made consecutive 3s to hike GU’s lead to 64-53 with 9:03 left. He did it again two minutes later and Dower joined in with a 3 as Gonzaga broke it open, 75-57.
Bobby Portis led the Razorbacks with 18 points. Alandise Harris added 17. The Razorbacks grabbed 19 offensive rebounds to generate 23 points.
“Our defense needs to be better and our rebounding needs to be better,” Few said. “Our offense is probably as good as anybody in the country right now, but we’ve got to get back to being tougher and nastier, which all of our teams have been in the past.”
(8) Syracuse 74, (18) Baylor 67: C.J Fair scored 14 of his 24 points in the second half and the Orange (7-0) beat the Bears (6-1) to claim the tournament title and improve their all-time record at Maui to 9-0.
Cory Jefferson led Baylor with 15 points.
Dayton 82, California 64: Devin Oliver had 21 points and the Flyers (6-1) halted an early second-half surge by the Golden Bears (5-2) to finish third at the Maui Invitational.
Minnesota 83, Chaminade 68: DeAndre Mathieu scored 17 points and the Golden Gophers (6-2) rallied in the second half to beat the Silverswords (2-3) to finish seventh in the eight-team tournament.
After the completion of the championship game, Pangos was named to all the All-Tournament team. The Gonzaga guard was joined by Jefferson, Oliver, Jerami Grant (Syracuse) and Justin Cobbs (Cal). Fair won the tournament’s MVP.
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