For the second straight night, No. 7 Gonzaga turned a close game at halftime into a blowout Tuesday. The Zags led BYU by six at the break before running away in the second half to win, 91-75, in the West Coast Conference Championship.
It was their 14th WCC title.
“We played really well in the second half today,” Gonzaga senior guard Kevin Pangos said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “That’s kind of how it is. They played great in the first half and we just bring it for all 40 and wear them down in the end. It was great effort by our team.”
Gonzaga led Pepperdine in the semifinals 35-33 at halftime before winning, 79-61, on Monday.
“When we play for 40 minutes, it’s tough to sustain that with other teams,” Pangos said. “We just brought it for all 40. We had guys coming off the bench contributing. Everybody that went in, played and did their part. It was good for us. It’s a great feeling to win these games and put us in a good situation these next couple weeks.”
Gonzaga shot 29-of-54 (53.7 percent) from the floor and 8-of-12 (66.7 percent) from three-point range, as six Zags finished in double figures. Kyle Wiltjer scored a team-high 18 points, followed by Pangos, who had 16, and Gary Bell Jr. and Domantas Sabonis, who had 15 apiece.
“That’s what our team’s all about,” Pangos said. “It’s team-first. We don’t take bad shots. We’re at our best when everyone is getting involved. When the guys off the bench are that consistent, that helps us out so much. It was good for us. It was a whole team effort. We had six guys in double figures tonight, which is crazy.”
Gonzaga has won 13 of the last 17 WCC Tournaments, including three straight.
“It’s awesome,” Pangos said. “Winning never gets old. I never get tired of it. For us to come out and play like that, it’s a great feeling. It’s special. It’s a fun night.”
Gonzaga ranks in the top 10 in the country in points per game (79.1), assists per game (16.5) and offensive field-goal percentage (52.4). The Zags have done a great job of sharing the ball and taking good shots, and their size and versatility have come in handy defensively and on the glass.
Is this the year that they finally get to a Final Four?
“I think this team has a great chance, but we have to play like you just said,” Pangos said. “When we’re playing like that, that’s when we have a chance to be really successful. If we don’t, then we’re in trouble. So that’s just all we got to do. We got to play exactly how you said defensively, shooting the ball well, sharing it and just play as a team. When we do that, then we can be pretty special.”
Gonzaga (32-2, 17-1) has won 25 of its last 26 games, but that one defeat – a 73-70 home loss to BYU on Feb. 28 – may prevent the Zags from earning a 1-seed.
“Its something that’s out of our control,” Pangos said. “Obviously we’d like to be on the West Coast and have a high seed and that’s great and all, but no matter what, you have to show up and beat whoever you’re matched up against. That’s out of our control. We just got to do what we can control, and that’s prepare ourselves and play the best we can.”
Regardless of where they’re seeded, the Zags hope to win the first national title in program history.
“That would be a great feeling,” Pangos said. “That’s the way I want to go out. I want to go out with no regrets and a great memory – and with this group of guys, it would be second to none. I hope I can say that in the end. That would be awesome.”