Bulldogs Down USD To Clinch Top Seed Into WCC Tournament
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - As impressive as No. 3 Gonzaga's offense has been, coach Mark Few insisted his team's defense is a key to the 10-game winning streak that has the Bulldogs on the cusp of their highest ranking ever.
Kevin Pangos scored 18 points and Gonzaga beat San Diego 81-50 on Saturday, putting the Bulldogs in position to rise to second in the AP poll after No. 2 Miami was upset by Wake Forest earlier in the day.
Gonzaga has not yielded more than 63 points during its winning streak.
''Our defensive effort has been outstanding,'' Few said. ''It's as good a sustained defensive effort as I've seen here.''
Kelly Olynyk added 14 points and nine rebounds for Gonzaga (27-2, 14-0 West Coast Conference), which clinched at least a tie for the WCC regular-season title it yielded to Saint Mary's last year. It marks the 12th league title in 13 seasons for the Zags, who have set a team record for regular-season wins.
The Zags also clinched the No. 1 seed into the West Coast Conference Tournament as Gonzaga holds the tiebreaker over Saint Mary's by sweeping the season series.
''It was mission accomplished'' to win the league title, Few said. ''That's one of our goals.''
Chris Manresa scored 19 to lead San Diego (13-16, 6-8), which has lost four straight.
Gonzaga has never been ranked as high as No. 2 in the country. The Bulldogs have won 10 straight since a last-second defeat at Butler. Their only other loss was to Illinois, and they have the best winning percentage in Division I.
Pangos, a sophomore, said winning his first conference title means a lot.
''It's something we really wanted to accomplish this year,'' he said. ''But we are always striving for more. We are never really satisfied with what we've got.''
The Zags appear to be peaking at the right time. They routed Santa Clara by 43 points last Wednesday and won by a 31-point margin Saturday.
''We are not letting teams get back into games,'' Pangos said.
Olynyk was at his most efficient in this one, making all five field goal attempts, his only 3-pointer and all three free throws. Pangos shot 6 of 8, including three 3-pointers.
Gonzaga shot 54 percent in the game while holding San Diego to 35 percent. The Bulldogs outrebounded the Toreros 38-22.
''They do a really good job of executing,'' said San Diego coach Bill Grier, a longtime Gonzaga assistant who added that this could be the best Gonzaga team ever.
San Diego scored the first basket of the game, then Gonzaga replied with a 14-2 run to take control.
Elias Harris' dunk gave the Zags a 21-9 lead midway through the first half, and Pangos hit a 3-pointer to extend it to 28-13. The Bulldogs poured in a mix of jams, layups and 3s, with eight players scoring, to double up the overmatched Toreros for much of the first half.
Gonzaga led 37-23 at halftime behind 13 points from Pangos. The Bulldogs outshot the Toreros 57 percent to 42 percent and outrebounded them 17-9 in the first.
''Early we had some good looks that didn't go down and our players got frustrated,'' Grier said.
Olynyk's three-point play opened the second half for Gonzaga, which ran off a 10-3 run for a 47-26 lead.
Gonzaga made six of its first seven shots, including consecutive baskets by Olynyk, David Stockton and Pangos, to push the lead to 54-30 with just more than 14 minutes left.
After a San Diego basket, Drew Barham's 3-pointer ignited a 13-0 Gonzaga run that gave the Bulldogs a 67-32 lead. The Zags made 11 of 15 field goals to open the second half, while San Diego was shooting 3 of 13.
The Toreros did not threaten the rest of the way.
''We're playing with great energy, finishing off every possession,'' Few said.
Gonzaga has won 10 straight against San Diego, but barely managed a 65-63 victory in the first meeting this season.
Gonzaga is 119-8 in the McCarthey Athletic Center since it opened in 2004.