Coppin St.-Gonzaga Preview
Gonzaga didn't win its tournament in Hawaii, but coach Mark Few believes his team will benefit from the trip.
The No. 11 Bulldogs return to the mainland looking for a 31st consecutive home victory over an unranked opponent Sunday against Coppin State.
Gonzaga (6-1) led by nine at halftime of its Maui Invitational opener against Dayton on Monday, but the Flyers shot 60.7 percent over the final 20 minutes and outrebounded the Bulldogs 40-29 for the game to pull off the 84-79 upset. It was the only game this season the Zags, shooting a nation-best 56.7 percent, failed to make at least half of its field-goal attempts.
With its tournament title hopes dashed, Gonzaga went on to shoot 62.8 percent while beating Division II Chaminade and Arkansas by a combined 42 points to finish fifth.
"This was a different experience for us, to be in the breakfast bracket," Few said. "It really challenges who you are and what you're all about.
"We will build on this experience. All that tells me, we are not that far off."
Guard Kevin Pangos averaged 26.3 points and shot 59.0 percent, including 12 of 21 from 3-point range, over the three days in Maui to earn all-tournament honors. He went 10 of 15 from the field and hit all but one of his eight 3-point attempts on the friendly rims of the Lahaina Civic Center to finish with a career-high 34 points in Wednesday's 91-81 victory over the Razorbacks.
"The shots were just falling. You hit the front rim, it just absorbs it," said Pangos, averaging 22.0 points and shooting 49.1 percent from beyond the arc this season.
Few understands for the moment he must rely on Pangos and backcourt mates Gary Bell Jr. (15.0 points per game) and David Stockton (6.0 ppg, 5.3 assists per game) to provide most of the offense with big men Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris gone.
The Bulldogs have some height, but foul trouble has been one reason 7-foot-1 starter Przemek Karnowski has been limited to 22.4 minutes per game. Six-foot-9 senior Sam Dower might be on the verge of breaking out after averaging 18.7 points in Maui.
Gonzaga, however, was outrebounded by Dayton and Arkansas and pulled down only three more boards than Chaminade. The Bulldogs' 8.7 average offensive rebounds per game is near the bottom of the national rankings.
Coppin State (2-3) was outrebounded 44-19 during Friday's 87-45 loss at No. 22 Michigan. Though the Eagles are facing Gonzaga for the first time, they've scheduled at least one ranked team in 18 consecutive seasons.
However, if Coppin State is to snap a 40-game skid against Top 25 opponents and hand Gonzaga its first home defeat to an unranked opponent since Dec. 10, 2011, it needs to play much better than it did against the Wolverines.
The Eagles shot 34.8 percent, including 2 of 17 from 3-point range, while Michigan made 51.6 percent without injured star Nik Stauskas.
"When you don't play well or don't compete, it doesn't help you," coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell said. "It does help you in the long run if you play competitive, but right now we're still waiting to get some pluses out of (scheduled ranked opponents)."
Sophomore guard Sterling Smith averages a team-leading 15.8 points on 59.2 percent shooting but was held to a season-low nine at Michigan.