Tracking the Zags | NCAA Tournament
Second Round, East Region
Gonzaga 77, West Virginia 54
By Peter Tormey
PITTSBURGH – Gonzaga University senior center Robert Sacre scored 14 points and freshmen guards Gary Bell, Jr. and Kevin Pangos tossed in 14 and 13 points, respectively, as the No. 7 seed Bulldogs silenced No. 10 seed West Virginia 77-54 Thursday night in a second-round NCAA Tournament game at the CONSOL Energy Center.
The Bulldogs (26-6) advance to the field of 32 to take on No. 2 seed Ohio State in the third-round of the East region here Saturday with tip-off 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Kansas State-Syracuse game, which begins at 12:15 p.m. EDT (9:15 a.m. PDT). The (28-7) Buckeyes, led by Coach Thad Matta, beat No. 15 seed Loyola Maryland 78-59 in tonight’s late game.
In a night when Gonzaga’s youth served notice, Pangos swished a 3-pointer less than 2 minutes into the game to put the Bulldogs ahead to stay. Gonzaga sprinted to a 40-22 halftime lead on the sharp-shooting of Pangos and Bell, who scored 13 and 12 first-half points, respectively, and each drained 2 of 3 first-period 3-pointers. Pangos, from Newmarket, Ontario, connected on 5 of 6 shots from the floor and both free throws in the first half, while Bell, from Kent, Wash., sank 4 of 7 from the floor and 2 of 3 first-period free throws. Freshman Gary Browne scored 15 points to lead the Mountaineers (19-14) and senior forward Kevin Jones added 13.
Click the image below to watch a video with postgame comments from Gary Bell, Jr., Kevin Pangos and Ryan Spangler.
A huge focus of the game for the Zags was keeping Jones off the boards, which they did handily – keeping Jones to only 4 boards.
The Zags earned most of their 18-point first-half lead on a 13-0 tear that began with a jumper by Bell with 11:35 left in the initial period. The Bulldogs extended their lead to 27-10 before Jones answered with a layup at 6:22 left in the first half to cut the Zags’ lead to 15 (27-12). The Bulldogs only stretched their lead in the second half to 23 points at the buzzer, the second-largest margin of victory for Gonzaga in an NCAA Tournament game (the Zags beat Valparaiso by 27 points in 2004). The Zags, now 17-14 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, have won one NCAA Tournament game the past four consecutive years. Tonight also marks the 11th time in 15 tournament appearances that Gonzaga has won its first tournament game.
The Zags shot 56 percent from the floor in the game, including a white-hot 63.6 percent in the second half while the Mountaineers shot a lukewarm 32.7 percent from the floor in the game, including a dismal 23.1 percent first-half in which they made only 1 of 10 3-pointers to the Zags’ 6 of 10.
Sacre contributed 6 of his 14 points and 6 of his 10 rebounds in the first period while junior Elias Harris added 3 of his 10 points and 2 of his 3 rebounds in the first period, playing only 4 first-half minutes due to two fouls. Gonzaga dominated the boards in the first half 23-17 but the Mountaineers caught up in the second and the teams finished with 31 boards apiece for the night.
Pangos and Bell were not the only Gonzaga freshmen making their presence felt as 6-foot-8-inch freshman forward Ryan Spangler, from Blanchard, Okla., made hey with his 21 minutes of playing time, grabbing 8 rebounds and scoring 4 points.
For his part, Spangler was thrilled.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be here and win the first game. We’re going to move on to our next game and see how far we can go.”
After the game, Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said it was a great opening game – all things considered.
“You know, these opening games, they’re hard. There’s a lot of build-up to them. It’s almost paralysis by analysis on the staff’s part,” he said. “I was so proud of our guys. They came out and executed the game plan defensively, offensively, especially on the rebound aspect of it. Beat a very good basketball team. I’m really happy for our guys to be able to move on.”
Sacre was asked if he had special words of wisdom for the younger players to make them play so well.
“ ‘Hit ’em’ is all you’ve got to say,” Sacre said. “ ‘Hit ’em, be physical, let everything else work itself out. As long as you’re physical, that’s all that matters. Show that Gonzaga’s not soft.’ ”
Bell, who also grabbed 4 rebounds on the night, said he knew precisely what he needed to do.
“I just had to toughen up. I knew throughout this whole week, once we found out we were playing West Virginia, we knew they were a tough rebounding team,” Bell said. “Myself, I didn’t rebound as good as I could against Saint Mary’s, so I made sure in this game I would help the bigs out and rebound with the big guys.”
Pangos admitted he had a few nervous moments the game, which dissipated at tip-off.
“I had jitters going into it, I’ll be honest,” he said. “Once you get playing, it’s just the same game. It was easier. Everyone brought it on the court. It was a lot of fun, playing with the guys. Everyone did their part.
I’m happy we got the win and are moving on to the next game.”
Coach Few applauded Spangler’s play and borrowed a line used frequently in the Bulldogs’ program.
“We always say, ‘every dog is going to have his day,’ ” Few said. “It was just one of those games where we knew he could play and be effective.” Few said Spangler utilized his minutes well.
“This was kind of a game made for him,” Few said. “He really helped us because we were in probably as serious of foul trouble as we’d been in all season.”
Few said Ohio State’s Coach Matta has had “an incredible run of success” and fantastic recruiting.
“Not only does he do a great job of getting them there, but they play together. They stick to their core principles,” Few said. “They always play phenomenal defense, take pretty good care of the basketball. His teams have always shot really well, too. They’re a typical Big Ten team. Hard to generate baskets on. Going to play physical and rebound it. He’s got a great player in (Jared) Sullinger and a bunch of other really good players around him.”