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Gonzaga Basketball

Mighty Bulldogs tame Tigers

Gonzaga cranks up defense to rout Pacific

Pacific tried man-to-man defense, some zone, extending pressure into the back court. The Tigers tried to get physical. They burned three timeouts in the first 18 minutes.

Nothing seemed to bother the Gonzaga Bulldogs, whose shooting percentage hovered in the 70s for most of the first half and they went on to rout Pacific 91-60 in front of a full house of 6,000 Saturday at McCarthey Athletic Center.

Gonzaga (20-1, 9-0 WCC) reached the midpoint of the conference season with a one-game lead over Saint Mary’s (16-4, 8-1), which defeated Portland 74-64.

The Zags shot 60 percent from the field, their third highest of the season. GU built a 45-27 halftime lead and led by as many as 36 in the second half.

“We started in man,” Pacific coach Ron Verlin said. “When stuff started going in we tried to deny (Kyle) Wiltjer the ball, maybe not let them swing the ball. We zoned. First pass we’d show zone and then first pass go man.

“We had some tricks up our sleeves, but everything we tried didn’t work.”

Senior guard Kevin Pangos made his first three 3-point attempts, giving him 288 for his career and a share of first place with Blake Stepp on GU’s all-time list. Pangos had two cracks at the record-breaker but the first rattled in-and-out and the second was long. The crowd was fully aware of the situation and the collective groans were nearly as loud as any ovation during the game.

“That (first) one felt really good, I thought it was down,” said Pangos, who played only 18 minutes and departed for good with 9:40 remaining. “Oh well, next one.”

Gonzaga’s defense limited the Tigers (10-11, 2-7 WCC) to 33 percent shooting. Pacific was just 5 of 22 on 3-pointers.

“We were great at both ends,” coach Mark Few said. “Offensively when we’re moving it, sharing it and making the extra pass that’s when we’re at an elite level. Defensively we were really solid. We didn’t want them to get going from 3 and we wanted to make their guards work.”

The Zags made 11 3-pointers, one shy of a season high. Silas Melson connected on four 3s and Gary Bell Jr. had three. Five players reached double figures, led by 13 apiece from Przemek Karnowski and Bell. Melson added 12 and Byron Wesley 11. Eight Zags made between three and six field goals and eight had at least one assist as they enjoyed one of their easiest wins of the conference season.

Freshman forward Domantas Sabonis, who suffered a slight fracture and dislocation to his right index finger in practice earlier in the week, wore a padded brace for the second straight game. His two-game totals: 17 points, 21 rebounds.

“I just need to be careful,” Sabonis said.

Gonzaga led by 16 after a Kyle Dranginis 3-pointer with 11:45 remaining in the first half. Wesley’s steal and layup bumped the margin to 20. The Zags opened the second half with a 16-1 spurt to take a 61-28 lead.

“I can’t stress this enough, we played defense,” said Bell, who has averaged 13.3 points in the last three games. “That’s when we’re playing our best, when we get stops.”

Wesley led GU in minutes played with 27. Gonzaga’s bench saw extended playing time and contributed 39 points. Nine Zags shot at least 50 percent.

The Tigers’ Eric Thompson and T.J. Wallace each scored 12 points.

“They’re darn big so they are hard to score over,” said Verlin, whose team graduated all five starters from last year and has 11 newcomers. “Their guards are good enough to keep you in front and they make you work your tail off. I think they’re pretty good defensively as well.”