Gonzaga men’s basketball clinches WCC title outright
Bulldogs recovers from back-to-back losses with an easy road win over Pacific, 70-53.
The Associated Press
STOCKTON, Calif. — Kevin Pangos had 18 points, Drew Barham matched his career high with 17 points off the bench, and Gonzaga beat Pacific, 70-53, on Thursday night to clinch the outright West Coast Conference regular season title.
It was the perfect bounce-back game for the Bulldogs, (24-6, 14-3 WCC), who will head into the conference tournament as the top seed for the 11th time in coach Mark Few’s 15 seasons. Gonzaga had lost back-to-back games to BYU and San Diego and fell out of the top 25 before blowing out the Tigers in their first visit to the Northern California campus in more than 35 years.
The Bulldogs led by as much as 23 despite a slow night from leading scorer Sam Dower Jr. and got enough scoring off the bench to make up for the slack.
T.J. Wallace had nine points and four rebounds for Pacific (14-14, 5-12).
The Bulldogs led nearly the entire game and had no problem putting away the Tigers in their first visit to the Pacific campus since Dec. 23, 1976.
That took Gonzaga out of a must-win situation heading into Saturday’s regular-season finale at St. Mary’s.
Pangos, held to 17 points combined in the losses to BYU and San Diego, had 15 points in the first half and repeatedly sped past Pacific’s defense for easy buckets. He had nine points as part of a 13-0 run when Gonzaga took the lead for good, then helped keep the Bulldogs comfortably ahead in the second half.
“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.”
That helped offset a slow night from 7-foot-1 center Przemek Karnowski. Karnowski spent much of the first half on the bench in foul trouble and injured his right foot six minutes into the second half. Gonzaga’s big man returned and finished with nine points and nine rebounds.
Dower Jr. was also slowed by fouls and had just six points.
Gonzaga had no problem picking up the defensive slack and forced 16 turnovers — 10 in the first half — and got a big lift from Barham off the bench.
Barham made four three-pointers to keep the Bulldogs rolling. He scored eight consecutive points to push the Bulldogs lead to 64-43 in the second half.
Pacific, which matched its longest losing streak of the season at four, couldn’t keep up.