Catching a connecting flight, but you know the drill. Here's my gamer.
Read on for my day-after UCLA post.
--Gonzaga’s balance and efficiency were on full display last night. The Zags made 22 of 34 two-point FGs, 9 of 19 beyond the arc and 16 of 19 at the FT line. Five players hit 3s, led by Kyle Wiltjer’s three. Seven players had assists, led by reserve Kyle Dranginis’ five.
The Zags forced the Bruins into a familiar position for opposing defenses so far: Pick your poison. UCLA opened in man, then tried a zone that GU quickly diced up. The Bruins didn’t double-team very often and paid for it as Gonzaga posts patiently went to work, generating good looks for themselves or teammates.
“Our bigs are a lot to handle down low,” wing Byron Wesley said. “They can pass really well and they’re all unselfish, which is unusual for posts to be so unselfish and have such good vision. We complement each other well.”
Wiltjer is 18 of 27 from the field (5 of 7 from 3) in his last two games. Wesley is 17 of 22 (2 of 3 from distance). Przemek Karnowski and Domas Sabonis continue to be effective.
“We have so many weapons, that gives us so many options,” Wiltjer said. “We have a lot of work to do on execution but we’ve done a good job of surveying the first option and if that’s not there we get it to the other side.”
--The word that kept popping up in post-game responses from Mark Few, GU players and Bruins players was “experience.”
Gonzaga guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. are in their fourth season as starters. Wesley was a three-year starter at USC. Wiltjer played two seasons at Kentucky and spent last year as a redshirt working on his game. Karnowski is in his third season, his second as a starter. Kyle Dranginis is a redshirt junior.
Asked how GU was able to repel numerous UCLA rallies, Few said, “Senior guards, they kind of understand, ‘Hey, let’s not do anything crazy.’ Finding the right matchups and we have a pretty unselfish team and pretty cerebral team. We had to make baskets to stem their runs because it was hard stopping them.”
Said Bruins forward Kevon Looney: “They have a lot of size and they’re really physical. They ran their offense to a T. They just don’t miss open shots.”
--Pangos didn’t score against WSU, his first game at GU without a point, and Gary Bell Jr. had just two points. Both were scoreless again in the first half Saturday, but again the offense stayed on course quite nicely.
They remained patient and neither forced drives or shots. Both produced 9 points and four of their combined seven assists in the second half. Pangos hit the biggest shot of the game, a contested 3 with the shot clock running down that bumped GU’s lead to 74-63 with 4:10 left.
“When our team is flowing like you have to roll with it,” Pangos said. “We had our chances in the second half.”
Bell’s defense kept Bryce Alford scoreless most of the first half. The Bruins guard broke loose from Dranginis for his first points late in the half.
--Dranginis has filled the stat sheet in his last two games. He had five points and five assists in the first half. He finished with those same totals, but he also contributed six rebounds and a steal. His lone negative was three turnovers due to shaky ball-handling.
“He’s kind of our unknown, X-factor guy,” Few said. “He gave us great minutes in that first half. He was really punching it at their defense and making plays. And he has such quick hands on defense.”
--UCLA opted to foul Wesley in the latter stages, once an away-from-the-ball foul as the Bruins were hoping there might be a carryover from the wing’s trio of missed FTs in overtime in the Arizona game. Wesley didn’t have a FT attempt against WSU.
“Yeah, they did the old Hack-a-Shaq routine,” said Wesley, who made 2 of 4 attempts. “I was happy to get to the line and get some easy ones.”
STATS OF NOTE
--Wesley had nine boards for the second straight game.
--Karnowski hit both of his free throws and has made 4 of his last 5.
--Alford connected on at least three shots with defenders in his face. He scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half.
--Pangos is in a bit of a shooting slump. He’s 3 of 17 on 3s in his last four games. His last two makes, however, have been big ones – in OT against Arizona and the aforementioned dagger against UCLA.
--Bell was 2 of 2, both 3s, and 3 of 4 at the FT line.
--The Zags had 20 assists with 10 minutes left, and remained at that figure.
--Dranginis’ emergence has cut into Silas Melson’s playing time. The freshman guard played just five minutes, all in the first half.
Wesley on GU’s patience: “That comes with all of us being veterans. Everybody in the starting five has played at a high level since they’ve been in college. Everyone understands that we don’t need to take early shots and when we get the ball to multiple sides, like coach Few said, we’re hard to stop.”
Pangos: “I just keep shooting when I was open, that’s all.”
Few on Wiltjer: “Kind of vintage Kyle. He threw some running hooks in, mixed in some 3s. He’s really, really skilled.”
Steve Alford: “Those bigs are talented so you have to worry about that. And by the time you worry about that someone knocks in a 3.”