Gonzaga threw the ball inside to Przemek Karnowski in the first half and he scored.
The Zags threw the ball inside to Karnowski in the second half and he passed to open teammates.
Karnowski, Kyle Wiltjer and Byron Wesley combined for 63 points as the ninth-ranked Zags pounded Washington State in the paint and posted an 81-66 victory in front of a packed house of 11,521 Wednesday at the Arena.
Gonzaga (8-1) won its fourth straight over the Cougars (4-5).
Karnowski poured in 18 points in the first half as GU built a 39-29 lead. The Cougars, who went with an undersized frontcourt most of the game, tried double-teaming the 7-foot-1 center in the second half and he burned them with three assists.
“In the first half they didn’t double so me, Domas (Sabonis) and Kyle had enough room to go through our moves,” said Karnowski, whose 22 points equaled his career high. “In the second half they started doubling and I believe that didn’t work for them.
“We had cuts, wide-open shots from the outside that went in. I feel like we’re a really good team any way they want to guard us.”
First-year WSU coach Ernie Kent agreed.
“It was a fact of us picking our poison,” he said. “You double down and let (Kevin) Pangos free? We shut Pangos down, but the big fella had a big game. You kind of pick what you’re going to try to take away from them and try to get them out of rhythm a little bit. They’ve seen it all.”
Gonzaga followers saw something they’ve never seen: Pangos went scoreless for the first time in his career. Backcourt mate Gary Bell Jr. had only two points. Pangos took a hard hit to the side of his head early in the first half and left the court under his own power. He returned about 90 seconds later, but he also dealt with foul trouble most of the night.
“Even when I was in or ‘GB’ was in, we went through the bigs,” Pangos said. “They were dominating, so why go to anything else?”
With backup point guard Josh Perkins sidelined with a broken jaw and Pangos logging just 23 minutes, Bell and Kyle Dranginis assumed ball-handling duties and the Zags were efficient with 17 assists and 54-percent shooting.
WSU stayed within striking range in the first half behind sophomore guard Ike Iroegbu (10 points) and sophomore forward Josh Hawkinson (seven points, nine rebounds).
The Cougars’ offense heated up in the second half. They made 62.5 percent of their field-goal attempts and kept pressure on the Zags, despite falling behind by 15 in the first minute. Gonzaga stretched it to 48-31 when Wesley scored inside but WSU closed to 62-53 on Hawkinson’s 3-pointer.
Wiltjer’s 3-pointer and a Karnowski putback bumped GU’s lead to 14.
“We had stretches where we came back (in the second half) and then we turned the ball over – just lost our composure a little bit,” Kent said.
Bell finished with four assists. Dranginis had five points, four boards, three assists and two steals. Both guards did a solid defensive job on senior guard DaVonte Lacy, who finished with 14 points, 4.5 below his average.
“We played hard effort-wise, I just didn’t think we played smart,” Lacy said. “They’re a great team and when you have mental lapses like that they’re going to capitalize, and that’s what they did.”
Wiltjer had 21 points, six rebounds and four assists. Wesley finished with 20 points and nine rebounds. Gonzaga scored 56 points in the lane and enjoyed a 36-23 rebounding edge.
“Once they started doubling in the second half, I just moved to the open spaces and our bigs did a great job finding me,” Wesley said.
Hawkinson led WSU with 18 points and 11 boards. Iroegbu added 14 points.
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