Dominant Zags to play for Old Spice title
GU balance, depth keys in win over Oklahoma
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The game of basketball looks pretty simple when a team is efficient on offense, steady on defense and owns the glass.
Gonzaga combined those elements into 40 tidy minutes and blasted Oklahoma 72-47 in the Old Spice Classic semifinals on Friday night in front of 2,205 at HP Field House.
The 17th-ranked Bulldogs (5-0) will face Davidson (3-2), a 63-60 winner over West Virginia, for the championship at 4 PST Sunday.
There were no lead changes, no ties. Gonzaga scored the first seven points, endured a brief lull, then closed the first half with a 7-1 run to take a 32-22 advantage.
Senior forward Elias Harris poured in 10 points in the first 4 minutes of the second half as Gonzaga stretched its lead to 18.
“We got back to playing our style where we attacked on the offensive end all night, did another great job playing defense in both man and zone and our rebounding was exceptional,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said.
Oklahoma (3-1) trailed by as many as 25 in the second half and never was closer than 20 in the final 11:30.
Gonzaga, with significant contributions from its guards, outrebounded the Sooners 51-24. Oklahoma came into the game plus-11 per game on the boards. David Stockton grabbed six rebounds, Kevin Pangos had five and Kyle Dranginis, who entered when Guy Landry Edi picked up two quick fouls, added four. Kelly Olynyk led GU with eight rebounds.
“If the bigs don’t block out their guys there’s no way we can really get the ball. We’re not that tall or athletic,” Pangos said. “It’s five guys on the court buying into what the coaches say, that’s really all it is.”
The Bulldogs turned the rebounding advantage into a 17-4 edge in second-chance points. But then, GU dominated nearly every statistic, including points in the paint (26-16) and bench points (27-12).
Harris was the only Zag in double figures with 18. Gary Bell Jr., Przemek Karnowski, Pangos and Olynyk each had eight points and Edi added seven. At halftime, GU’s balance was in full display with nine players scoring between two and five points. It also came in handy when GU’s fouls started stacking up. Oklahoma was in the bonus near the midpoint of the first half.
“It’s nice (to have depth) and it’s nice not to drop off when we go to the bench,” Few said. “I thought Kyle played really good off the bench, lifted us up and we made a run with him.”
The biggest run came when Harris took over early in the second half. By design, GU went to Harris on the first few possessions of the half and he responded with a power move for a three-point play. He followed with a 3-pointer and his first rebound of the game came on an all-in-one motion putback dunk. He finished with another dunk on the next play on a nifty feed from Sam Dower.
“I played more aggressive and with more energy,” said Harris, who has been in double figures in all five games.
Harris departed with 14 minutes left and Gonzaga on top by 17. With the senior on the bench for roughly 6 minutes, Gonzaga extended its lead to 59-36.
“We just wear down other teams; other teams don’t have the same depth,” Pangos said. “In a long tournament like this, it’s a bonus.”
Gonzaga contained Oklahoma’s inside tandem of Romero Osby (11.7 points per game) and Amath M’Baye (9 ppg) while limiting guard Steven Pledger (team-high 12 ppg). Osby scored 13 points (seven from the free-throw line) and M’Baye was just 2 of 8 from the field. Pledger finished with seven points, five in the last 7 minutes.
“Gonzaga did a terrific job dictating in every way,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. “Anytime you get whipped that badly on the boards, you know they were a lot more physical, a lot more aggressive to loose balls.
“We had some opportunities but we were sped up because of their defense and we didn’t shoot with good rhythm and pace. We didn’t shoot well, but that’s a credit to Gonzaga as much as anything.”