Bulldogs Ground Air Force 70-60 For Fourth Straight Victory
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Kevin Pangos scored 23 points and Sam Dower added 16 points and eight rebounds - all in the second half - as Gonzaga grinded out a 70-60 victory over Air Force on Thursday night.
Elias Harris added 12 points and Gary Bell Jr. had 10 for the Bulldogs (9-2), winners of four straight. Todd Fletcher had 17 points for the Falcons (6-3), who played most of the way without leading scorer Michael Lyons, who went down in the opening minutes with an ankle injury.
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few was relieved to get past the Falcons.
"They're a really, really difficult opponent to prepare for. We had one day of preparation and they came in and did a great job," Few said. "I thought their coaching staff did a great job, I thought their players did a great job. We finally made some plays down the stretch to get the win."
In a back-and-forth game that saw Air Force grab its biggest lead, 36-32, early in the second half on Taylor Broekhuis' basket inside, Gonzaga took charge behind Dower. With his team trailing 38-37, he scored six straight points for the Bulldogs, who took a 46-44 lead with 10:39 remaining. His three-point play with 7:52 left capped an 8-0 burst that put Gonzaga up 54-46.
A jumper by Taylor Stewart pulled Air Force to within 54-49 with 7:17 left, but Gonzaga responded with a 7-0 run capped by Pangos' 3-pointer with 5:35 left and grabbed its biggest lead, 61-49.
The Falcons never got closer than eight the rest of the way.
Few singled out mutliple players for their role in the win.
"Sam did a nice job finding an area where to go get it, but I thought Elias hung with it really well. Obviously Kevin shot the ball well and Gary hits some big 3's. We got stops and then we ran a very efficient offense at the end," Few noted.
the Bulldogs also did it without much contribution from their senior center Robert Sacre, who injured a thumb Wednesday in practice and played with a brace on high right hand.
"We didn't know if he could go. He's such a tough warrior guy. He put a big brace on him, but it was really difficult for him to catch and make plays. He helped us defensively and on the glass," Few praised.
Sacre played 19 minutes, 16 of them in the opening half, and had two rebounds and a pair of assists. He was held scoreless for the first time since this season.
Gonzaga seemed to be in control early, riding Pangos' three 3-pointers to a 15-11 lead. Pangos finished 6-of-12 from 3-point range.
But Air Force stayed close, grabbing its first lead, 19-17, on a driving layup by Taylor Stewart with 7:40 left in the half.
Mike Fitzgerald added 14 points and Stewart had 12 for Air Force, which had won three straight.
The Bulldogs will take a few days off for Christmas, then begin preparations for the West Coast Conference opener next Wednesday at home against the University of Portland.
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