Kevin Pangos had a milestone night while Gonzaga's defense did most of the heavy lifting in a 64-46 win over Portland on Thursday.
Pangos connected on a 3-pointer with 15:30 left in the first half for the 289th of his career, easing past Blake Stepp's 288 at the top of GU's all-time list. More on Pangos and GU's defensive effort in my unedited game story below.
By Jim Meehan
Kevin Pangos was just doing what he usually does. He was putting up extra shots Wednesday night in the Martin Centre. Portland was practicing in the McCarthey Athletic Center.
And one of Gonzaga coach Mark Few’s son’s teams was practicing in a nearby gym. Few stopped the practice and took the youngsters over to watch Pangos go through his shooting routine.
Less than 24 hours later, Pangos drained a 3-pointer that left him alone at the top of Gonzaga’s all-time list and sparked perhaps the loudest and longest ovation of season. It was a memorable offensive highlight in the Zags’ defensive-minded 64-46 victory over Portland in front of 6,000 Thursday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“There’s a reason why this happens,” Few said. “He comes down here every single night. He’s as dedicated to his craft as anybody we’ve ever had here.”
Pangos took a kick-out pass from Przemek Karnowski with 15:30 left in the first half and connected on his 289th career 3, eclipsing Blake Stepp’s 288. Pangos ranks fifth in WCC history.
“I wanted to get it over with early and focus on the game,” he said. “I’m so glad that first one dropped.”
It’s not an exaggeration when Few says Pangos is in the gym every night. The only time that’s changed during the senior guard’s career was last year when toe and ankle injuries kept him from his nightly sessions.
“It’s a routine. It feels weird if I don’t come down,” Pangos said. “Some people go to the gym and lift weights, some people go for a run, some people read. For me, it’s going to the gym. It’s relaxing, it makes me feel good.”
The third-ranked Zags (21-1, 10-0 WCC), who extended the nation’s longest home-court winning streak to 37, felt really good about their defense. They held the Pilots (12-10, 3-7) to their lowest point total of the season. Kevin Bailey and Alec Wintering, who combine to average 27 points, were held to six points on 2-of-15 shooting.
No Pilot players reached double figures.
“We’ve had some games where our defense has won it for us already,” Few said. “Certainly that was the case tonight.”
Gonzaga never found its stride offensively. The Zags’ 40.7 percent shooting was their second lowest of the season (39.7 percent vs. Arizona). Subtract Pangos’ 3 of 5 and the Zags were 2 of 17 beyond the 3-point line.
“Some nights are like that,” freshman guard Silas Melson said. “We were just missing easy shots.”
Half of Gonzaga’s 64 points came in the paint, fueled by Domantas Sabonis’ 13 points, Kyle Wiltjer’s 11 and Karnowski’s 10. Pangos finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
Karnowski and Sabonis both grabbed 11 rebounds, eight at the offensive end. The Zags had a 47-39 advantage on the boards and a 13-8 edge in second-chance points.
“Portland pushed us and pushed us, especially in the first half,” Few said. “We didn’t move it and share it the way we have this year. In the second half we got back to doing that and I thought our defense was outstanding in the second half.”
Volodymyr Gerun’s jumper pulled Portland within 35-29 with 17:15 left. The Pilots managed just three free throws before making their next field goal, a Bobby Sharp 3-pointer at the 4:30 mark. By then, Gonzaga had opened up a 27-point lead with a 23-3 run.
“Just effort and attention to detail, guys buying in and swarming around,” Few said of the second-half defense. “That’s a good offensive team. Portland can score in a lot of ways.”
Gonzaga, which has won 14 straight games, steps away from the WCC when it entertains Memphis (13-7) on Saturday.