#9/8 Zags head to the Desert to face #3/3 Arizona
9/8 Gonzaga (7-0) at 3/3 Arizona (7-0)Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014 | 2:15 p.m. (PT) | McKale Center (14,655) | Tucson, Ariz. TV: ESPN (Roxy Bernstein, Dan Dakich, Jeff Goodman) Gonzaga IMG Radio Network: KGA 1510/Sirius XM Ch. 84 (Tom Hudson, Matt Santangelo) Live Stats | Gonzaga Notes | Arizona Notes
ABOUT THE SERIES
Gonzaga’s tough schedule has moved the Zags into the top spot on the NCAA’s latest RPI rankings (games through Dec. 3), up from No. 2 last week. Arizona is 13th in the RPI listing.
Freshman Domantas Sabonis has made 13 consecutive field goals coming into the Arizona game. He hasn’t missed a shot since the 11:31 mark of the first half against Georgia three games ago. He made his final FG attempt against UGA, then went 6-for-6 against St. John’s and 6-for-6 against Southeastern Louisiana. He ranks third in the NCAA and first in the West Coast Conference with a .795 field goal percentage (35-44) on the season.
It’s no secret that Kevin Pangos is one of the nation’s top players - he’s on four player or point guard of the year watch lists - and he’s proving them all right. With a deep roster around him, Pangos is averaging 12.3 points, which is slightly below his career average of 13.3, but his field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage, assists per game and steals per game are all up, while his turnovers per game are down. Check out this comparison of his career numbers against his performance thus far this season:
FUN WHILE IT LASTED
Kevin Pangos played 118 minutes of game action and dished out 27 assists before his first turnover this season. He’s ranked third in the NCAA and first in the WCC with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 8.2. He’s averaging 5.9 assists per game, well above his career average of 3.4.
GONZAGA’S PRESCRIPTION? MORE PANGOS
When Kevin Pangos is on the floor, Gonzaga is a team-high +157 against opponents this season. That’s a good thing for two reasons: (1) This season, Pangos leads the team in minutes played with 29.9 per game, 3.9 higher than the next closest Zag, and (2) Over his career, Pangos has played in all 111 games, including 110 straight starts. He came off the bench in his first career game against Eastern Washington on Nov. 11, 2011.
Follow Pangos’ road to the GU career three-point record on Twitter with #4equals3. With two threes against Southeastern Louisiana, he passed Matt Santangelo’s 252 for third all-time at 253. That leaves him 27 behind Richie Frahm’s 280 and 35 behind Blake Stepp’s 288.
Gonzaga’s group of newcomers and transfers has not only brought depth and balance, but they’ve been prolific at putting the ball in the basket. First-year GU players have combined to make up 51.1% of the offense this season, led by Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer’s team-leading 16.0 points per game. USC transfer Byron Wesley is averaging 11.3 points per game and freshman Domantas Sabonis is at 12.6.
‘K-WILTJ’ POURING IT ON
It didn’t take Kyle Wiltjer long to show his ability to fill it up in a Gonzaga uniform. He’s led the team in scoring a team-best three times, including 20 his last time out against Southeastern Louisiana. Earlier this year against Georgia, Wiltjer knocked down 14-of-26 shots on the way to a career-high 32 points. His previous career-high of 26 came in a Kentucky uniform against Ole Miss in 2013. And even though he’s known for his ability to shoot the three, 13 of his 14 field goals came from inside the arc vs. UGA.
Freshman Domantas Sabonis has wasted no time showing national pundits that he’s a rookie with no ceiling. Through seven games, he’s the only Gonzaga player to reach double-digit points six times. He recorded his first double-double (10p-11r vs. St. Joe’s), and is tied for the team lead in rebounding at 6.4 per game. He’s also the son of NBA Hall of Famer and former Portland Trail Blazer Arvydas Sabonis.
SHARING IS CARING
Through seven games, Gonzaga has been one of the best in the nation at both sharing the ball and caring for the ball. The Zags rank in the top five in assists per game at 19.9 and assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.85. Kevin Pangos leads with 41 assists, and Byron Wesley has 20.
I-NIT TO WIN IT
Gonzaga won the NIT Season Tip-Off last Friday, dispatching St. John’s 73-66 at Madison Square Garden Nov. 28. Kevin Pangos brought home MOP honors after tallying 33 points, 15 assists, and two season highs (22 pts. Nov. 26, 9 asts. Nov. 28) in the two games. Also making the NIT All-Tournament Team were Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer.
MAKING IT RAIN
Gonzaga is averaging 7.7 three-pointers per game so far this season and is shooting at a .391 clip (54-138). Eight players have made at least one three, and Gary Bell Jr. leads the team with 17, including his five-three-pointer outburst against St. Joseph’s Wednesday, Nov. 19. The Bulldogs have made at least four three-pointers in every game.
It isn’t only Gonzaga’s 88.0 points per game on offense that’s been impressive, its been the 58.6 points per game allowed on defense. Only two of seven opponents have crossed the 60-point mark. The Zags have held opponents to .360 from the field, and .298 from behind the arc. GU is also keeping the clamps down on defense, forcing an opponent assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.6, forcing 13.7 turnovers and only allowing 8.1 assists per game.
Gonzaga has cleaned up on the glass through six games, holding a rebounding margin of +12.3, the ninth best mark in the NCAA. Collectively, Gonzaga is averaging 41.4 rebounds per game including 12.9 offensive boards per game. Opponents, meanwhile, averaging just 28.7 total rebounds per game. Newcomer Domantas Sabonis and center Przemek Karnowski lead the Zags at 6.4 rebounds per game.
Led by freshman Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga’s bench has proven to be a force. It has combined to score 209 points in seven games with 50 against St. Thomas Aquinas Nov. 22. Sabonis alone has accounted for 42% of the bench production, scoring 88 of the 209.
All 31 Gonzaga games will be televised this season, including 16 on the ESPN family of networks. That gives Gonzaga 68 ESPN appearances in the last four seasons.
Gonzaga hit the 100-point mark for the second time this season last Saturday with a 109-55 win over St. Thomas Aquinas. It is the highest point total since 113-point effort against Chaminade in the Maui Invitational on Nov. 26, 2013. It also marks the third consecutive season the Zags have hit 100 twice in a year, and the eighth time in Mark Few’s 16 years at the helm.
Gary Bell Jr.
FEW IN DECEMBER
During Mark Few’s 16 years at the helm of the Gonzaga program, he’s compiled an NCAA record .804 winning percentage. In the month of December, he’s compiled a mark of .688 with 77 wins and 35 losses. Over the last four seasons, the Zags are 19-4 (.826) in December. Here’s how it breaks down by year:
Gonzaga hasn’t lost at home since Dec. 8, 2012 to Illinois (85-74), a streak of 30 games and span of 719 days. The 29 games is the second-longest current streak in the nation, behind only Duke’s 35-game win streak. It is tied for the third-longest streak in GU history with a 29-gamer from 2000-03. The school record is 50 from 2003-2007, which includes the McCarthey Athletic Center opening in 2004. The Zags won their first 38 games in their new building. The 10th anniversary of the first game played in the MAC was on Nov. 19, 2004, a 98-80 win over Portland State.
WCC PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Thanks to his MVP performance in Madison Square Garden last week, Pangos earned WCC Player of the Week honors December 1. He last earned conference Player of the Week Dec. 2, 2013, after making the All-Tournament Team of the Maui Invitational.
PANGOS ON WATCH LISTS
Senior guard Kevin Pangos was named to the 50-player Naismith Award Watch List this week. He’s also on the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50, Bob Cousy Award Watch List and the Lute Olson Award Watch List. He is one of 37 players named to the Cousy list, an award given to the nation’s top collegiate point guard. He is one of 25 players named to the Olson list, an award given to the player of the year in college basketball.
PERKINS SIDELINED INDEFINITELY
After taking a blow to the face from a Georgia defender’s leg, reserve point guard Josh Perkins suffered a broken jaw, which is now wired shut. He is not experiencing concussion symptoms, but there is no timetable for his return.
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