Closing down here at the MAC after the Bulldogs' 72-56 late-night rout of SMU on Monday.
Kevin Pangos led the way with 17 points, but the stat sheet will show that Gonzaga got contributions from its starting five and top four reserves.
My unedited game story is below.
By Jim Meehan
Gonzaga dismantled another opponent, and this outcome will raise some eyebrows across the college basketball landscape.
The Bulldogs roughed up No. 22 SMU 72-56 before a full house of 6,000 Monday at the McCarthey Athletic Center and a national television audience on ESPN2. GU improved to 5-4 against ranked opponents in the McCarthey Athletic Center’s 10-year history.
Senior guard Kevin Pangos made five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points. Freshman forward Domantas Sabonis had 13 points and nine rebounds. Kyle Wiltjer overcame a slow start to produce 10 points, five rebounds and three assists. Nine different Zags scored at least four points.
“Each night it’s going to be someone different,” said Pangos, who had seven assists and five rebounds. “When we learn to embrace that even more, it’s going to be tough for teams to scout. You’re not going to be hot every night. It allows for other people to step up.”
On this night, GU’s four primary reserves of Sabonis, Angel Nunez, Josh Perkins and Kyle Dranginis all contributed to an impressive victory. Sabonis punctuated the win with a dunk off a no-look feed from Perkins with 1:57 remaining. He was fouled on the play and his free throw gave Gonzaga a 25-point lead, matching its biggest of the night.
“Domas was really good,” coach Mark Few said. “You’re starting to see what kind of rebounder he is. If you can rebound in traffic against those guys, you can do that against anyone in the country. Angel gave us some good minutes. Josh gave us valuable minutes in the first and second half.”
The Mustangs (1-1) had no answers for the Zags at either end of the court. Gonzaga piled up 20 assists and shot 45 percent from the field. SMU made just 31 percent, 24 in the second half, primarily against the Zags’ matchup zone.
Gonzaga won the majority of the 50-50 balls and often converted hustle plays into points. Gary Bell Jr. dove to snag a loose ball and flipped it toward Pangos, who went to the court to collect the ball while being fouled. Dranginis snagged an offensive rebound on a missed free throw and ended up draining a corner 3-pointer in the second half to boost GU’s lead to 56-36.
“Everyone at this level is talented,” Pangos said. “It’s those teams that scrap out the loose balls and make those game-winning plays, and we got a bunch of those tonight.”
The 13th-ranked Zags, who thumped Sacramento State 104-58 in the season opener, ruled the boards 22-12 in the first half, leading to a seven-point advantage on second-chance points.
Gonzaga came out firing from deep – 5 of 16 on 3-pointers in the first half – and retrieving a fair share of its misses. On one sequence, the Zags misfired three times before Pangos connected on a 3.
“They were digging into the post a lot. We watched a lot of film on them and that’s what they do,” Wiltjer said. “That was the scouting report – if they dig, pass it out and shoot the 3s. We were hitting shots.”
The Zags overcame first-half foul trouble on Przemek Karnowski and Sabonis with a nice contribution from Nunez and Wiltjer’s five points in the closing 4:05. Karnowski and Sabonis were effective, combining for eight points and seven rebounds, but only played 16 minutes.
GU, which entertains St. Joseph’s on Wednesday, led by 13 after a Wiltjer tip-in before settling for a 37-27 halftime edge.
Gonzaga put it away with a 14-1 run early in the second half.
“That’s going to be a great win for us,” Few said. “One we can put in our back pocket and it will serve us well in March.”