Overview: Gonzaga is good. The No. 17 Bulldogs won their second Old Spice Classic title Sunday with an 81-67 victory over Davidson, a talented opponent that was relentless the entire night. But they never panicked after they dug out of an early hole. Clearly, this is not just a team that will give WCC opponents fits. With their depth, star power and size, they can contend with the nation’s best. Upcoming tests against Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State will tell us a lot more about Gonzaga’s future. But right now, this team continues to justify the early chatter about its ability to make a run in March.
Turning Point: There were a few. Seven minutes into the game, Gonzaga was down 13-6 after missing five of its first six shots. But the WCC favorite cleaned up its act and finished the half up 33-24 after shooting 42 percent. But the Wildcats never quit. With 9:23 to play, De’Mon Brooks’ layup tied the game at 51-51. Minutes later, however, Kevin Pangos commenced a shooting barrage that included four consecutive 3-pointers as Gonzaga extended its lead.
Why Gonzaga won: The Bulldogs were 27-for-49 from the field (55.1 percent) and 7-for-14 from beyond the arc. They didn’t get off to a strong start but once they started rolling, Davidson didn’t have many solutions to stop them. They bounced back from an early deficit and then, when the Wildcats stormed back after halftime, Gonzaga responded with another run. Their poise was a crucial element in this win.
Why Davidson lost: The bottom line is that Davidson couldn’t handle Elias Harris (24 points, 10 rebounds) inside and it didn’t have any answers for Pangos (23 points, 5-for-9 from the 3-point line) in the second half. And foul trouble for Brooks and Jake Cohen, who both fouled out, didn’t help. The Wildcats worked hard to climb back into the game in the second half. But when Pangos went off, they couldn’t recover. Again, Brooks’ foul trouble (he picked up his fourth with eight minutes to play) left Davidson without a key defender and scorer in a critical stretch.
Star(s) of the game: Harris and Pangos were a potent inside-outside combination. They’re going to break a lot of teams throughout the season. But Kelly Olynyk (14 points, six rebounds) was a gem off the bench.
What it means for Davidson: This squad showcased its full arsenal. Although Davidson lost, its effort against Gonzaga was more confirmation that this midmajor could mess up a lot of brackets in March.
What it means for Gonzaga: The Bulldogs seem to improve each week. They’re balanced. They’re skilled. Sunday night was a gut-check for the program. And it came out on top. They passed this test.
More observations: Gonzaga’s true potential will depend on the success of its reserves. Olynyk really stepped up. But this squad will need more from its bench as the season progresses. ... I still think Davidson is a very dangerous team. Foul trouble really changed this game. Why would anyone want to face this team in the tournament? ... I was surprised that Bob McKillop’s squad didn’t do a better job of adjusting defensively when Pangos got hot. But Brooks’ foul problems limited his options. ... I’d love to see a three-game series with these squads. Great game. Great fight.
What’s next: Gonzaga will face Lewis Clark State Thursday. Davidson will travel to Chattanooga Saturday.