A fiery comeback in the second half for Washington State proved to be too little too late in Gonzaga's thrilling 89-81 victory against the Cougars Monday night.
WSU, which was down by as many as 21 points, came within three points twice in the final 90 seconds.
However, clutch free-throw shooting by Bulldogs center Robert Sacre, who was 13-13 during the game, proved to be the difference maker down the home stretch.
If there was one player who proved to be the difference maker for Gonzaga, it had to be guard Kevin Pangos. The freshman guard was lights out from the floor, connecting on nine three pointers and scoring a game-high 33 points.
“It was special,” Pangos told the Spokesman-Review. “It felt great, but it’s just nice to get the win. We’re 2-0 and we’re trying to get build a great season.”
WSU freshman Davonte Lacy, who scored all of his 11 points in the second half, told Cougfan.com that he hasn't seen anyone shoot that way since his playground days.
“I haven’t seen anyone shoot that good since I was in the sixth grade, and that kid was just throwing it up there,” Lacy said with a smile. “He (Pangos) shot unbelievable. Like, really unbelievable."
Gonzaga came out from the opening tip-off and controlled the tempo against the visiting Cougars. The Bulldogs seemed as though they could not miss from the floor, specifically from the three-point line. Gonzaga connected on 10-20 three pointers in the first half, while WSU struggled from outside and connected on 2-7 attempts (28.6 percent).
The hot shooting by Gonzaga led to a 41-32 advantage at halftime, with the Cougars holding some momentum going into the locker rooms. That momentum did not last long, though, with Gonzaga coming out of the half determined to extend their lead, and they did.
After WSU's Faisal Aden opened up the half knocking down a three pointer, Gonzaga took over offensively. The Bulldogs went on a 12-2 run following Aden's trey, and jumped out to a 53-37 lead. Gonzaga continued their hot shooting, and after a Pangos three pointer, saw their lead jump to 21 points with 13:11 remaining in regulation.
WSU refused to back down and slowly but surely started chipping away at the lead. Lacy made back-to-back three pointers during an 11-0 Cougar run that cut the lead to 77-73 with 3:07 to go.
Junior Reggie Moore nailed a three pointer with 27.3 seconds remaining to bring the Cougars within 84-81. However, after Gonzaga added a free throw to push their lead to 85-81, Lacy's three-point attempt rimmed in and out and Gonzaga added four more free throws to seal the win. Junior Brock Motum led the way for the Cougars with 17 points and eight rebounds.
WSU had four other players in double figures with Moore's 14, Aden's 12, Mike Ladd's 13 and Lacy's 11. As for Gonzaga, they were led by Pangos' 33, while Sacre added 15 points and 10 rebounds. Elias Harris had 14 points and 11 rebounds, which paved the way for Gonzaga to outboard WSU 41-33.
Head Coach Ken Bone told Cougfan.com that though the Cougars came up short, he was proud of the way they were able to come back and fight, and playing in the tough road atmosphere didn't affect his young team.
“I thought our guys showed a lot of character, there’s no doubt about it,” Bone said. “We did not lay down and roll over against an outstanding team on their home court.”