No. 3 Gonzaga cruises past Pacific for 36th straight home win
The plan for No. 3 Gonzaga was to get defensive stops early against Pacific on Saturday night.
Przemek Karnowski and Gary Bell Jr. each scored 13 points as Gonzaga jumped to a big early lead and routed Pacific 91-60, extending the nation’s longest home winning streak to 36 games.
"When we get some stops early on, we get a lot of transition baskets," Gonzaga guard Byron Wesley said. "We set the tone for our defense early."
Silas Melson added 12 points, Wesley 11 and Domantas Sabonis 10 for Gonzaga (20-1, 9-0 West Coast), which is off to the best start in program history. The Zags have won 13 consecutive games since their only loss at No. 7 Arizona in overtime.
"That’s the beautiful thing about our team," Wesley said of the balanced scoring. "It can be anybody’s night, anybody’s game."
Sabonis, a freshman, added eight rebounds and said coaches told the players to open the game with some urgency.
"This is like a first-round NCAA game," Sabonis said. "That’s how we approached it."
Gonzaga, which leads the nation in field goal percentage, shot 60 percent from the floor and made 11 of 25 3-pointers.
Eric Thompson and T.J. Wallace scored 12 points each for Pacific (10-11, 2-7), which lost its second straight.
"They’ve got a lot of weapons," Pacific coach Ron Verlin said. "They move the ball very well."
"Our defense was very soft tonight," Verlin said. "We’ve got enough guys that we should be able to man up and get it done."
Mark Few has never failed to win at least 20 games in 16 seasons as Gonzaga’s coach.
The Bulldogs led 45-27 at halftime after shooting 66.7 percent (16 of 24) in the first half, and making half of their 10 3-point attempts. Pacific shot just 9 of 30 in the first, including 3 of 13 from 3-point range.
Gonzaga opened the second half with a 16-1 run, including 3-pointers by Pangos, Bell and Melson, for a 61-28 lead.
Pacific did not make a field goal in the second half until Ilias Theodorou’s 3-pointer with more than five minutes gone.
Gonzaga finished the game making 33 of 55 shots (60 percent), to 33 percent for Pacific.
After Dulani Robinson’s 3-pointer put Pacific up 3-2, Gonzaga scored 10 consecutive points, including 3-pointers by Kevin Pangos and Bell, and never trailed again.
The 7-foot-1 Karnowski, who dominated the shorter Tigers in the early going, scored two more baskets as the Zags built a 26-10 lead. At that point Gonzaga had made nine of 11 shots.
"We didn’t do a good job on him," Verlin said.
Bell hit another 3-pointer to put Gonzaga up 36-18 with 7:25 left in the first. Wesley’s steal and layup put Gonzaga up 41-21 with just under 5 minutes left in the first, and got the student section yelling "up by 20!"
Gonzaga barely won the rebound battle 34-33, but the Zags outscored in the Tigers in the paint by 40-20. Gonzaga’s deep bench also outscored the Pacific reserves 39-20.
Pacific: Verlin’s twin brother, Don, is head coach just down the road at Idaho. … Pacific averages 6.6 3-pointers per game. … Pacific is 1-6 all-time against Gonzaga.
Gonzaga: Freshman Domantas Sabonis is averaging a double-double and shooting 75 percent over the previous five games. … Gonzaga has not lost a home game since Dec. 8, 2012. … Few is the only coach in WCC history with 200 conference wins, and now is 203-24 in league play. … Gonzaga has six players averaging at least 8.3 points per game.
Pacific hosts Pepperdine next Thursday.
Gonzaga hosts Portland next Thursday.