PULLMAN – It can happen that quickly.
In a little more than a minute early in the second half, just 76 seconds in fact, Gonzaga showed Washington State what Eastern Washington’s best team is this season – and then just kept emphasizing the point.
The nine-point Jeremy Pargo-propelled burst kick-started a 42-point second half, lifting the fourth-ranked Bulldogs over WSU 74-52 in non-conference play before 10,894 in Beasley Coliseum on Wednesday night.
“When we’re clicking on all cylinders, and we can push it up and spread the floor and get guys some shots, we can be pretty good,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.
They were more than pretty good in the second half, especially those 76 seconds.
The Bulldogs (7-0 for the first time under Few) broke a tie at 27 in the last minute of the first half on a Steven Gray 3-pointer – one of six they had before intermission – and an Austin Daye drive that WSU (6-3) only countered with a Klay Thompson drive.
Gonzaga’s 32-29 halftime edge quickly became 32-31 when Aron Baynes pinned Josh Heytvelt and spun for a layup with 19:21 left.
“We lost our way,” is how WSU coach Tony Bennett put it. “Everything we value we didn’t do.”
Pargo started the onslaught with an unchecked drive to the rim with 19 minutes, 11 seconds left.
Thompson missed and Heytvelt beat Baynes down the court for a fastbreak dunk off Pargo’s assist. The Cougars turned it over – they finished with 14 after having just five at the half – and Pargo answered with a 3-pointer from in front of the GU bench. Another turnover, this time courtesy of Pargo’s quick hands, and Daye had a fastbreak layup on the other end.
With 17:55 to play, Bennett called timeout.
It was 41-31 and WSU wasn’t coming back.
“It was painful to play that inspired … in the first half, then to just let the dam kind of break,” Bennett said.
“It seemed they were just a half-step slow compared to the first half, and that’s when we took their will away,” said Heytvelt, who finished with a game-high 22 points on inside moves and three 3-pointers. “We were hitting shots, which we weren’t doing in the first half, and things were going our way.
“We were getting deflections, steals, rebounds and one-and-outs, and that’s what gave us the (big) lead.”
WSU would shoot quickly or turn the ball over, and Gonzaga would counter with either a transition bucket or patiently get a good shot.
The lead built to 33 (71-38) with 5:14 left – that’s a run of 39-7 – making only the final score in doubt. The margin of defeat was the largest of the Tony Bennett era.
Taylor Rochestie, WSU’s senior point guard, struggled again, hitting just 2 of 11 shots, missing all five of his 3-pointers and turning the ball over three times without an assist, the first time that’s happened in two years.
For his part, Rochestie knew what went wrong in this one.
“We were playing selfish basketball, trying to do it ourselves – me in particular,” he said.
“If you give a team like Gonzaga confidence, they are going to make you pay for it. You saw how much confidence they were playing with tonight. They were shooting from anywhere and everywhere.
“Heytvelt took a shot from halfcourt and I bet he thought he was going to make that, because he had made everything else.”
The senior finished 9 of 18 from the floor, helping the Zags shoot 47.5 percent, including 43.5 from beyond the arc. Daye was 5 of 10 for his 14 points and Pargo, who had a game-high 10 assists despite foul trouble, was 5 of 7 to finish with 11 points. This was against a WSU team that came in leading the nation by holding opponents to 31.7 percent shooting.
“They beat us pretty well at our place (last year),” Pargo said. “We just wanted to come out here and have a good performance and show everyone we can play basketball and we can play any style.”
In this one it was the Zags who played the better defense, limiting WSU to 2 of 19 from beyond the arc, holding them to 32.7 percent shooting and stripping the Cougars seven times, with each of the steals contributing to a score.
“We’ve been talking about that all through the fall (that) we have to use our length,” Few said. “We’re not big, bulky, but we are long and I think we tipped a lot of balls.”
Daye set the tone by blocking two long-range jumpers in the first 3 minutes of the game. But despite WSU’s first-half offensive struggles, it stayed in the game. The Cougars attacked aggressively, getting to the line for 14 first-half attempts, making 12. That offset GU’s advantages in every other area.
But the aggressive nature didn’t last – and either did the competitive nature of the game.
“A lot of that was them – they’re a great team,” Rochestie said. “The energy and passion we played with in the first half kind of died. We weren’t poised. … To start a half like that, we didn’t give ourselves a chance.”
They also didn’t give Baynes a chance. The 6-foot-10, 250-pound senior was unstoppable inside – when he touched the ball. He only took three shots, and had no more than 10 touches in his 25 minutes.
He finished with 10 points, team high along with freshman post DeAngelo Casto.
(4) Gonzaga 74, WSU 52
Percentages: FG .475, FT .857. 3-Point Goals: 10-23, .435 (Heytvelt 3-7, Daye 2-4, Downs 2-4, Gray 2-4, Pargo 1-2, Bouldin 0-1, Sorenson 0-1). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 4 (Daye 2). Turnovers: 8 (Daye, Brown 2). Steals: 7 (Heytvelt 3).
|Washington State (6-3)||Min||M-A||M-A||O-T||A||PF||PTS|
Percentages: FG .327, FT .842. 3-Point Goals: 2-19, .105 (Koprivica 1-4, Harmeling 1-6, Capers 0-1, Lodwick 0-1, Thompson 0-2, Rochestie 0-5). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 6 (Baynes, Casto 2). Turnovers: 13 (Thompson 6). Steals: 1 (Casto).
Halftime–Gonzaga 32, Washington State 29. A–10,894.
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