There was a lot that went right in Gonzaga's 70-53 win over Pacific on Tuesday night. Kevin Pangos busted out of his road slump, Drew Barham matched his career high with 17 points, but most importantly, the Bulldogs broke a losing slide and secured the WCC title outright.
Now, Gonzaga gets to enter the WCC Tournament as a No. 1 seed, regardless of the outcome of the game against Saint Mary's on Saturday.
It was also a game where the Bulldogs faced a bit of adversity. Both Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski landed in early foul trouble. Any game that you see a combined 17 minutes from Ryan Edwards and Luke Meikle in the box score is enough to make you worried, but Thursday night was all about the team effort - honestly something we haven't seen from Gonzaga in a long time.
Considering that Dower had a very quiet night, the offense was going to have to come from somewhere. Instead, it came from everywhere. The Bulldogs had nine different players score in the game (really eight but we'll give Connor Griffin his much deserved shoutout), and they attacked the rim relentlessly. The 32 free throw attempts were the most since a win over Portland on Feb. 5, and almost as much as the past two losses combined.
There were a lot of other shining moments as well. Gonzaga's zone defense baffled Pacific when it was in play, and the Bulldogs will need to practice it for the games when Dower and Karnowski are in foul trouble. Gerard Coleman obviously listened to my criticisms and put out one of the best games of his entire year. In just nine minutes the guy totaled three rebounds, four assists, one steal and a block. This is the Kyle Dranginis method into the lineup. Finally, it has been a while since we had a sharp Barham like that. Barham's had hit a total of three three pointers in his previous five games. If Barham is a threat from the corner, it really eases up the pressure on the rest of the offennse.
Now a few quotes, first courtesy of Jim Meehan at the Spokesman Review.
Mark Few on bouncing off last week's trip:
"It's a special deal to be able to win one," he said. "This is first time where it's been 18 games. It's longer and harder and as I've said all along this year this league is better top to bottom. It's a great testament to those guys."
Pangos on driving to the hoop:
"We knew we could do it, we just had to get the mentality," Pangos said. "We stressed being strong on drives and not bailing out on contact."
Barham on the success of the zone:
"We got in early foul trouble so we went to (the zone)," Barham said. "We flew around, talked and flew out on shooters and made it tough on them."
Stockton on the team effort:
"We were playing for each other and worrying less about ourselves and what was at stake," said Stockton, who had four points, four rebounds, five assists and three steals. "It showed, especially in the zone. People were covering for each other, making plays."
And a few more from the AP post.
Pangos personal game plan on the night:
"I just tried to focus on what coach was saying, being aggressive driving to the rim, and it worked out in my favor," said Pangos, who went 6 of 14 from the floor. "Being a little stronger with the ball, being aggressive in general. I had a little pep in my step, which felt good."
Few on how Pangos needed to adapt his game:
"We took 14 runners against San Diego, one-footed runners, and (Pangos) took about six of them," Few said. "We got back to if you're going to turn the corner, attack the rim with some toughness or get down to a two-foot stop and see if you could make something happen there. Secondly, we did a nice job of moving it and finding him off some screens."
Barham on the importance of Pangos clicking:
"When (Pangos is) attacking it opens it all up for the shooters," Barham said. "He's kind of like the head of the snake. By him playing well it helped us all out."
On the flipside, from Jagdip Dhillon of the Stockton Record:
Pacific coach Ron Verlin on his team:
"We have to get on the same page. Sometimes when you have really high expectations and you don't reach those expectations, it gets hard. We have kids that are just struggling."
T.J. Wallace on playing Gonzaga:
"They are so versatile, just so many weapons that can hurt you in so many different ways. It's difficult to account for all of those options."
Tony Gill on playing Gonzaga:
"The margin of error you're allowed against Gonzaga is so much smaller. We made too many mistakes and they're too good and they make you pay."