PORTLAND – For the longest time, it didn’t appear Gonzaga would need a closer Saturday as its lead swelled to 21 points on 7-foot-1 center Przemek Karnowski’s first career 3-pointer.
As it turned out, the Zags needed two closers – Karnowski, in his more traditional role of scoring and passing from inside the paint, and Kevin Pangos, draining 3-pointers, a runner and free throws.
The Bulldogs’ 21-point lead dissolved to five with 2 minutes left, but Karnowski and Pangos carried them to the finish line for an 87-75 victory in front of a sell-out crowd of 4,852 – perhaps half GU fans – at the Chiles Center.
Of Gonzaga’s final 35 points over the final 15:30, Pangos scored 17 and Karnowski 15. Kyle Wiltjer, who had a tough outing in his hometown, scored the other three.
“Each game it’s been somebody different,” said Pangos, who finished with 21 points, sharing team-high honors with Karnowski.
The Zags (14-1, 3-0 WCC) won their seventh straight game – and they’ve played just once at the McCarthey Athletic Center since Dec. 2.
“We’ve been on the road for like a month,” coach Mark Few said. “The Battle in Seattle is a plane ride and hang out in a hotel room. When you take that into effect, it’s pretty remarkable what we’ve been able to do. I told them I’m proud of them for the way we held up and now we get to play in front of our home crowd. … But again, we need to do a better job of putting the game away.”
The Zags’ streak of fast starts continued but the player most responsible was different. GU, which led San Diego 12-3 and BYU 14-4 early on, raced in front 13-2 with 15:15 left. Wiltjer had lifted the Zags to those quick starts, but this time it was a balanced approach.
Wiltjer, who averages a team-high 17.1 points, didn’t score in the first half, but Bell struck for 10, Byron Wesley eight and Kyle Dranginis six as the Bulldogs took a 43-28 halftime lead. Gonzaga dominated the boards 21-10, creating a 9-1 advantage in second-chance points.
The rebounding stat flipped in the second half and the Pilots mounted an improbable comeback after Karnowski’s improbable 3-pointer midway through the second half. A Portland player had kicked the ball out of bounds, causing a reset of the shot clock from 2 seconds to 15. But when Karnowski gazed at the shot clock, it still showed 2.
“I didn’t see it (when they changed the time on the clock),” he said. “I just shot it and it went in.”
It was all Portland (10-5, 1-2) for the next 8:30. Point guard Alec Wintering and center Thomas van der Mars led a furious comeback with Wintering’s free throws trimming GU’s lead to 75-70. Pangos halted Portland’s momentum by hitting a jumper after a kick-out pass from Karnowski.
The guard returned the favor on the next play, feeding Karnowski for a dunk and he drew a foul. Karnowski made the free throw and Pangos went 6 of 6 at the line in the final 27.3 seconds.
BYU 99, San Francisco 68: Kyle Collinsworth had 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists as the Cougars (13-4, 3-1) beat the host Dons (7-9, 1-3).
Saint Mary’s 72, Loyola Marymount 63: Aaron Bright finished with 24 points and six assists as the Gaels (11-3, 4-0) beat the Lions (4-11, 0-3) in Los Angeles.
Santa Clara 59, San Diego 56: Brandon Clark made 4 of 4 free throws in the final 47 seconds, to lead the Broncos (7-8, 2-2) over the Toreros (8-8, 1-3) in Santa Clara, California.
Pepperdine 71, Pacific 61: Stacy Davis scored 21 points and the Waves (9-5, 2-1) beat the Tigers (9-7, 1-3) in Malibu, California.
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