Some college football programs spice up their spring games by putting something on the line, such as winners eat steak, losers chow on hot dogs.
The Gonzaga men’s basketball team didn’t have anything like that at stake in its 15-minute scrimmage Saturday at Kraziness in the Kennel, but there was still something to play for in front of roughly 5,000 fans at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“Just bragging rights,” said junior guard Kevin Pangos, who was on the losing side as the Blue team thumped the Red 32-20. “Sometimes that hurts even more.”
The sting won’t last long. Both teams were a bit careless with the ball – the Red committed nine turnovers – and shots didn’t fall for either side, but nobody was expecting perfection in the first performance this season in front of the home crowd.
“It’s the beginning of the season so it’s going to be sloppy,” said Sam Dower Jr., who had four points and six boards for the Blue. “The guys gave great effort. We ran our plays and we just showed what we’ve been working on. For some of these guys, like Angel (Nunez) and Gerard (Coleman), they’ve been out for a year and they’re excited. We’re excited to see what the season holds for us.”
Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer, who will sit out this season under NCAA transfer rules, hit all five of his free throws and finished with 11 points and two assists for the Blue. Gary Bell Jr. added eight points and Coleman, a candidate for playing time at the “3,” added seven points, four rebounds and two steals. Coleman, from nearly a seated position on the court, swiped the ball from Pangos for an easy layup in the final minute.
“We’ve been working on our plays and all that but we’ve been focusing on defense, getting in passing lanes, pressuring the ball without fouling,” Bell said. “Gerard is helping us with that (forcing turnovers). He’s not doing everything right, but he’s just making plays.”
Pangos, picking up where he left off in an earlier 3-point contest, made two 3-pointers and paced the Red with 10 points, four boards and three assists. Przemek Karnowski had four points, three rebounds and two blocks.
“We made a lot of mistakes, but you don’t want to be perfect this time of year,” Pangos said. “You want to have room to improve. We’ll watch tape and fix it and be a lot better.”
Pangos’ 3-point shot doesn’t need any fine-tuning. He missed a couple of shots late to finish 13 of 15 to beat Drew Barham in the semifinals of the 3-point contest. Pangos said he “cooled off” in the finals. Yeah, he made only 10 of 15, but Bell was awarded the win, not coincidentally on his birthday.
“I guess that was a present for me,” Bell said.
Former Gonzaga greats Blake Stepp, Dan Dickau, David Pendergraft and Cory Violette captained teams with one current Zag and a fan in a shooting contest. Dickau and Dower both made half-court shots in the semifinals. Stepp’s team, which included Dower, won when the ex-Zags guard drained a half-court shot in the finals.
“It was great to see those guys on the floor, to see them come out and make shots,” head coach Mark Few said. “That was a nice touch.”
The Bulldogs have a home exhibition game against Simon Fraser on Oct. 25 before opening the season against Bryant University on Nov. 9.