Bonifacy and Wieslawa Karnowski picked the perfect time to visit their son.
Gonzaga sophomore Przemek Karnowski’s parents have been visiting from Poland and the 7-foot-1 center treated them to perhaps the best performance of his young career – 15 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks – in the Bulldogs’ 73-51 rout over Saint Mary’s on Thursday.
Karnowski set the tone early with three blocks in the first three minutes. When he departed with four minutes left and Gonzaga on top by 30, an appreciative crowd of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center gave him a standing ovation.
“It was a great feeling,” said Karnowski, who also had a strong all-around effort in GU’s win over San Francisco on Monday. “I hope they’re happy, I’ll be talking to them in a few minutes. I’m so glad they’re here.”
With Karnowski protecting the rim, the 24th-ranked Bulldogs (13-2, 3-0 WCC) completely stifled one of the more efficient offenses in the country. The Gaels (10-4, 1-1) didn’t have an assist in the first half. They didn’t crack the assist column until 3:42 remained. Saint Mary’s, which came in as the WCC’s top 3-point shooting team at 43.3 percent, missed their first 11 attempts before connecting with 3:03 remaining.
Gonzaga is without Gary Bell Jr. (broken hand), widely regarded as the team’s best defender. Sam Dower Jr., returning from a lower back injury, played seven minutes but probably pedaled for about 15 miles on a stationary bike near the bench, trying to stay loose.
“We were just trying to get the guy coming off the ball screen, usually (Stephen) Holt, under control, not help too much off shooters and not give up layups,” said guard Kevin Pangos, who had 15 points and eight rebounds despite a nagging toe injury. “It was a bit of everything. ‘Shem’ was a monster down there.”
Beau Levesque led the Gaels with 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting. The rest of the team was 9 of 37. Center Brad Waldow made 1 of 8 shots and scored five points, 12 below his average. Holt (13.2 ppg, 5.5 assists) had nine points and zero assists in 34 minutes.
“Even for me, sometimes when I was driving the paint I was wondering where that guy (Karnowski) was,” Levesque said. “He deterred a lot of drives and he made us second-guess ourselves in the paint.”
Levesque said Gonzaga “took us out of our game and we started taking crazy shots and the score got away from us. We started to get down and each person tried to take it upon themselves to get us back in game.”
The short-handed Bulldogs again received quality work from pinch-starters Kyle Dranginis (12 points, four assists) and Drew Barham (3 of 4 on 3-pointers). David Stockton, battling a flu bug, had four points and two assists in 30 minutes.
The bench contributed 18 points, 13 from Angel Nunez and five from Gerard Coleman. Nunez had eight rebounds as Gonzaga won the battle of the glass 39-22 against the WCC’s top rebounding team.
“We really watched a lot of film, practiced and went through a bunch of scenarios (defensively),” Nunez said. “When we were out there, it was kind of second nature.”
Gonzaga used a 10-0 run, fueled by Barham’s two 3-pointers, to take a 28-18 lead. Pangos’ hit a 3-pointer with 13:10 remaining in the second half and then fed Karnowski for a dunk, triggering a 25-7 burst that gave Gonzaga a 30-point lead.
“We took a really good basketball team and guarded them great, kept them off the glass and scored on them,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said. “It was probably our best all-around effort of the year. I’m just unbelievably proud of the group that we’re down to and everybody that’s coming in is contributing and making plays.”