March 3, 2012
LAS VEGAS (AP) - Kevin Pangos missed his first shot Saturday. After that, the Gonzaga freshman was virtually unstoppable.
He scored 30 points on 10-of-17 shooting, and defending champion Gonzaga defeated Brigham Young 77-58 Saturday night to advance to its 15th consecutive West Coast Conference title game.
"We went to a zone a couple of times and knew he'd run to the corner," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "We were in position to challenge his shots. He just made good plays and got their team going."
Gonzaga went on a pair of 7-0 runs in the first half and never really looked back.
The Bulldogs (25-5) will face Saint Mary's in Monday's title game. The teams split their season series, with Gonzaga losing the first game by 21 points and winning the second by 14.
Gonzaga had done the same this season with BYU. But the Cougars never could get their shots to fall Saturday.
"A great win for us because we beat a very, very good basketball team, an NCAA tournament team," said Pangos, the WCC's newcomer of the year. He made 5 of 9 3-pointers.
BYU finished 3 of 18 from 3-point range and shot just 38 percent overall. Gonzaga made 7 of 15 from beyond the arc and hit 55 percent overall.
The Bulldogs also held a 37-31 edge in rebounds, 38-18 edge on points in the paint and 15-9 advantage on points off turnovers
Pangos was most excited about Gonzaga's defensive rebounding and defensive intensity.
"It was a team effort; everyone is loud and our energy was unbelievable. That fueled our offense," Pangos said. "When we play and try to get steals and are active like that, it fuels everything. It's contagious."
Brandon Davies led BYU (25-8) with 17 points, while Matt Carlino, Noah Hartsock and Charles Abouo had 12 apiece.
BYU trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half and 21 in the second. The Cougars got within 10 early in the second half, but each time BYU cut into the lead, Pangos was there to answer.
The win was payback for last year, when the Cougars stunned the Bulldogs 89-67 to punch their ticket to the NCAA round of 16 for the first time in 30 years. Now that the Cougars are first-year members of the WCC, Gonzaga was intent of showing who has owned the conference.
Now they'll face the Gaels, and BYU must wait to find out if it qualifies for the NCAA tournament.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of this team," Rose said. "This team has overcome a lot. It's been resilient in times of challenges. But we've been consistent all year long in finding ways to win games. We want to keep playing, and hopefully we can. This team deserves to be in the NCAA tournament."
The Bulldogs went on a 7-0 run to take a 9-2 lead, and Pangos hit back-to-back 3-pointers as they extended their lead to 12-4. Gonzaga went on another 7-0 run, capped by Guy Landry Edi's jam off a Carlino turnover, as the Bulldogs surged ahead 19-5 with 14:11 left in the first half.
Pangos stole another Carlino pass and scored on a fast-break layup for a 23-9 Gonzaga lead.
Eight minutes in, Gonzaga was shooting 71 percent and had made 3 of 4 3-pointers, while BYU was shooting 30 percent and started 0 of 4 from 3-point range
"We kind of panicked a little bit, rushed things," Rose said. "Gonzaga was really good for 40 minutes."
By halftime Pangos had 12 points as Gonzaga took a 38-26 lead into the break.
In the second half, six straight points by Davies pulled BYU within 42-32. But Pangos hit three more 3-pointers in the next 3 minutes as Gonzaga built its lead back to 16 points.
Carlino's 3-pointer cut the gap to 11 with 9:58 left, but Pangos countered with a floater in the lane to start an 11-2 run.
Elias Harris added 10 points and 15 rebounds for Gonzaga, his 11th double-double of the season and the 20th of his career.
"Sometimes you have to be smart when you get down," BYU's Abouo said. "We have a lot of guys with fight in them, but you have to be smart. You have to do it one possession at a time. We were looking for a five-point possession."
Story courtesy of Gonzaga Athletics and AP