It may still be early, but No. 10 Gonzaga once again looks like one of the top teams in the country. The Bulldogs beat Georgia, 88-76, in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday to improve to 5-0.
“We had some foul trouble, which is tough for us, but guys stepped up,” Gonzaga guard Kevin Pangos said on Ferrall on the Bench.
Yes, especially Kyle Wiltjer, who had 32 points on 14-of-26 shooting from the floor.
“Wiltjer’s great on offense and really put the ball in the basket, which is what we needed,” said Pangos, who added 22 points, six assists, three rebounds and three steals.
As for the foul trouble, center Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis – the son of Arvydas Sabonis – both fouled out, playing a combined 30 minutes. Sabonis, a freshman, had four points, two rebounds and one steal in 13 minutes off the bench.
“He’s awesome,” Pangos said. “Great person. He’s got a motor like no one else, and he plays super hard. He’s got great footwork and is tough around the basket. It’s too bad he wasn’t able to play big minutes today, but he’s a big part of our team. The crazy part is, he’s got so much potential still because he’s really young.”
Gonzaga plays St. John’s (4-0) in the tournament final Friday at 7 p.m. ET. Pangos said the team is more than happy to spend Thanksgiving in New York City.
“When you get to come to new York City, playing in the Garden, so much history here – it could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a lot of people,” he said. “We’re just embracing it and spending (as much time with family) as we can and (also with) our second family, which is the team.”
Overall, Pangos has been pleased with Gonzaga’s play this season, which included a 16-point win over then-No. 22 SMU.
“I think we’re playing great,” Pangos said. “We’ve had spurts where we were not playing as well as we could, but that happens. It’s still early in the season. It’s going to happen more. As long as we can bounce back and not let those spurts of our bad play carry on too long, we’ll be great. We still got a long way to go, though. We got a lot of new guys. We still have room to improve, which is a great thing for us because we’re playing pretty good basketball right now.”
Gonzaga has a pair of stiff tests upcoming: at No. 3 Arizona (6-0) on Dec. 6 and at No. 22 UCLA (4-1) on Dec. 13.
“Big time,” Pangos said. “That’s why our coaches schedule those games – to test us early in the season and go on the road in hostile environments. It’s fun. You got to really come together as a team when the fans are going after you, when teams get hot in the home arena and try to pull out that win. Those games are going to be great.”