Gonzaga made it a little more interesting than it needed to be, but the outcome was never seriously in doubt. The Zags led by 22 midway through the second half and won 60-48.
My unedited game story is below. Check back tomorrow for a day-after post.
By Jim Meehan
SAN DIEGO – Gonzaga, statistically, had one of its worst offensive games this season.
It didn’t matter. The Bulldogs got it done on the defensive end, keeping San Diego guards Johnny Dee and Christopher Anderson in check most of the way and grinding out a 60-48 victory in front of 4,517 Monday at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.
No. 7 Gonzaga (13-1, 2-0 WCC) went 2-0 on what could be their toughest conference road trip, on paper anyway. The Zags defeated BYU on Saturday.
“I’ll take it,” said senior guard Gary Bell Jr., who pestered Dee most of the night. “Last year we went 0-2 on this trip. I’ll take this any day.”
Gonzaga led by 15 at half and by 22 midway through the second half. The Zags were efficient on offense before running into a stop sign with just under nine minutes left. After Domas Sabonis’ two free throws gave the Zags a 54-35 lead, they didn’t score for the next seven minutes.
Dee did the majority of his damage in that stretch, but Gonzaga’s lead never slipped below nine points.
“They do such a good job on Johnny and Christopher,” said San Diego coach Bill Grier, the former GU assistant. “We got some stops and we were able to get some stuff in transition, but in the half court they’re longer than us at every spot and they make it hard for you to get a clean look.”
Byron Wesley finally ended Gonzaga’s drought with a driving layup while being fouled with 1:41 left. He missed the free throw but the Zags retained possession. Wesley added two free throws to push the lead to 13.
The Zags made just 42 percent from the field – second only to their 40-percent effort against Arizona. They committed nine of their 14 turnovers in the second half.
“We were pretty efficient against a team that really nobody’s been able to do that to all year,” coach Mark Few said. “We moved the ball well and took advantage of their covering down on our bigs. The game really got physical on our end (in the final 9 minutes) and they weren’t calling anything and we got frustrated. We just have to play with a little more poise.”
Kyle Wiltjer paced GU with 15 points and Wesley added 12. Pangos chipped in 10 points and Przemek Karnowski added eight points, eight rebounds and two assists, including a behind-the-back pass to Kyle Dranginis for a layup.
“The guys know that I sometimes do that in practice,” Karnowski said. “I thought it was a good situation. We were up by a couple points and we got two easy points.”
Dee, who averages 18.8 points, had just five points midway through the second half. He warmed up with three late 3-pointers and finished with 20 points, but he made just 5 of 16 field-goal attempts. Anderson went scoreless, missing all nine of his shots, and committed six turnovers.
“He’s going to shoot the ball, he’s their go-to scorer,” Bell said. “I didn’t want to give him any easy looks.”
The Toreros shot just 27 percent from the field and 48 points equaled their season low. USD (7-7, 0-2) scored just six points in the paint.
Wiltjer, much like the BYU game, helped Gonzaga to an early lead. He scored 10 points in the first five minutes as the Zags led 12-3.
But it was Gonzaga’s defense that did the heavy lifting. The Toreros’ first two shots failed to draw iron and they had four airballs in the half. Dee and Anderson combined to go 1 of 11 from the field.
“When (Anderson) passed, I tried not to make those passes easy,” Pangos said. “If he got in the lane, I tried to keep him in front and make him have tough finishes. My teammates helped me out big time.”
Gonzaga finished the half with a 15-6 spurt to take a 35-20 lead. Pangos, Wesley and Sabonis each had two buckets in the run.