No. 11 Gonzaga vs. No. 22 SMU game recap


They played both sides of the ball, Kevin Pangos was (as predicted) spectacular, Sabonis cleaned house and the Zags chased SMU out of Spokane with a 72-56 win during the first game of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon.

Pangos tallied with 17 points, seven assists, five assists and three steals on 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point range to finish the top performer on the night.  Freshman Domantas Sabonis provided the bench spark and poured gasoline on the fire that was the Kennel with 13 points, nine rebounds and an and-one hulk-smash on Ben Moore.

Moore led the stat sheet for SMU with 11 points and eight boards, but it was Nic Moore who kept the Mustangs from a Jenga-like utter collapse dealing out five assists to supplement his ten points.  Driving and dishing, hitting timely 3-pointers, the stat sheet did not do justice how important the guard was to his team’s success.

The Zags did not roll over a crippled roster, but instead picked apart and shot the lights out against a team who was respectably ranked in the top-25. That said, before calling shotgun on the Gonzaga bandwagon may be narrowed from an “if” to a “when,” keep in mind that it is the second game.  GU is two games into the season, has not played on the road nor have they really been tested.

That being said, they were excellent tonight.

So here I leave my takeaways from the Monday night mauling:

What you should call home about…

1. Sabonis the REAL DEAL:  Summed up in five words? Aggressive, aggressive, aggressive, aggressive and aggressive.  There are certain players who brand themselves with an intangible “aggressive” trait and then there are the ones who everyone watching can tell is an untapped keg.  Keith Frazier is the epitome of an untapped keg, as the former five-star recruit looked like he was hiding under a rock for 90 percent of the game.  But young Sabas was the antithesis–He looked fully-tapped.   In 20 minutes he proved to me that the only reasons he will not be starting by the end of the season are if Kyle Wiltjer goes onto lead the NCAA in 3-pointers made or if Wiltjer does just enough night in and night out to hold Sabonis as the prized leader of the second unit.  The freshman showed tough defense and may not have been boxed out all night.

2. Pangos is ready to lead:  Throughout the season Bell will have his nights, Wesley will always be a scoring option and Wiltjer will always shoot but Kevin Pangos looked in post-season form giving Nic Moore the daunting task of keeping of with him, or lack-thereof.  Shooting 5 for 8 from downtown, he proved that the threes will come but flexed his offensive diversity torching Moore on a top-of-the-key step back.

3.  Perkins is not just the future, he’s the present: At a glance, four points and two assists in 17 minutes is nothing flashy. Playing behind and aside Pangos, Perkins was the seasoning to the second unit potpourri.  His quick ball-movement, pest-like defense and 3-point ability are all progressed to a level beyond his youth. Having someone to distribute to allow Pangos to play off the ball turns Pangos into the double-edged sword he needs to be to reach this ceiling.

The critical & picky pointers…

1.  Free throws are a potential kryptonite:  8-20.  40 percent.  Shoot free throws like that in a close game? There is the losing difference.  Aside from Sabonis’ 5-for-7 shooting from the line, the team went 3 for 12.  SMU shot 75 percent from the line.  Going forward, teams know to foul players such as Angel Nunez and Przemek Karnowski, who have a worse free throw percentage than the half court shot contestants do.

2.  Wesley and Wiltjer struggled: Yes, the two combined to be six-for-17 shooting, 1 for 5 from three and only two free throws.  No, they did not play particularly well, but they did not need to.  Both played team defense and looked good at times creating their own shots.  The critique comes into play when looking at the expectations coming into the season.  Neither were faced with daunting defensive duties, so facing a team like Arizona the two cannot struggle.

The Zags (2-0) take on St. Joe’s at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 19 to begin the NIT Season Tipoff.