In an offense filled with an embarrassment of riches, Gonzaga holds a lot of security in any given player being able to light it up on any given night. This applies to all positions and goes six or seven players deep.
Wednesday night, when Gonzaga (8-1) exploited WSU’s defensive holes to battle out a 81-66 win, it was Byron Wesley and the bigs providing the scoring; the three garnered all the praise and deservedly so, as Przemek Karnowski had a game-high 22 points and added eight rebounds and three assists, Kyle Wiltjer notched 21 points, six boards and four assists and Wesley finished with 20 points and nine rebounds.
In a completely sold out “neutral” Spokane Arena, the Gonzaga-heavy crowd treated it like a home game while the splash of Wazzu fans in attendance were nowhere to be heard. The Cougs showed flashes of consistent scoring and and made runs, but that did not come until the second half when they did not cut the lead under 10.
Guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. both had quiet nights, but Pangos particularly struggled. After being clocked in the ear by WSU’s Jordan Railey on a clean block early in the game, he left for 90 seconds and returned to shoot 0 of 6 from the field, rack up four fouls and only play 23 minutes. Bell finished with just two points and picked up three fouls of his own keying in on WSU standout and his former high school rival DaVonte Lacy.
Blending guard play made way for…
The emergence of Przemek
Following up arguably the best performance of his career last weekend in Tucson where he finished with 10 points, 11 boards and ran the offense with his back to the basket, Karnowski was unstoppable against the Cougars.
The 7-foot-1 big has endured stretches throughout his three years where defenses have been unable to account for his size, and could not double quick enough to flood the lanes. He was matched one-on-one by pretty much every WSU starter, primarily the much smaller Josh Hawkinson, and Karnowski took full advantage going 8-10 in the first to tally 18 points and five rebounds by the midway mark.
Saying that Karnowski absolutely killed Hawskinson would almost be an understatement if it weren’t for Hawkinson flashing offense and drawing the center out to the perimeter where he earned the majority of his 18 total points.
The second half was particularly impressive. The Cougars brought the double down low on both Karnowski right out the gate and the Polish big man combatted it with patience and found the open man, freed up the lanes for Wesley to slash (he did) and the shooters such as Wiltjer and Dranginis to be left open (they were). Przemek had just three assists but his ability to dish the rock gave the offense a more dangerous dimension.
The Zags take on UCLA (8-2) in Los Angeles on Saturday to finish its third in a row and final Pac-12 season matchup. Preview to come.