PULLMAN (AP) — Two weeks ago, Washington State was blown out by No. 9 Kansas. On Wednesday night, they lost just 71-69 to No. 10 Gonzaga, and Cougars coach Ken Bone was pleased with the improvement shown by his team.
“We played a very, very good team in Gonzaga, and I think we did better and I’m proud of that,” Bone said.
“We had situations where we could have backed down, but we didn’t give up,” Bone said. “We battled through adversity and showed some toughness.”
Kevin Pangos drove the length of the court and scored on a layup with 2 seconds left to lift Gonzaga to the win, giving the Bulldogs (9-0) their best start in the team’s Division I history.
Pangos had a tough shooting night, until the game was on the line. The Gonzaga guard had made just 1 of 11 shots before the game-winner.
“My thought process was to just get to the rim,” Pangos said.
“It wasn’t my best shooting night, to say the least,” he said. “But I’ve struggled offensively before. I forgot about the misses and just kept shooting.”
Elias Harris scored 23 points and Kelly Olynyk had 22, all in the second half, for Gonzaga, which had been tied with the 1994-95 team for best start.
“We gave game balls to both of these guys,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of Harris and Olynyk. “These two players down the stretch were big for us.”
Olynyk, who redshirted last season, made 10 of 14 shots to keep Gonzaga in the game in the second half.
“Olynyk couldn’t have made these plays a year ago,” Few said. “He’s turning into a strong player.”
Brock Motum had 23 points and DaVonte Lacy added 22 for Washington State (5-4), which saw its three-game winning streak snapped.
Motum hit a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left to bring WSU within 68-67.
Gary Bell Jr. made a free throw for Gonzaga, and Lacy made a layup to tie the score at 69.
That set up Pangos’ drive that gave him eight points.
“It was a great college basketball game,” Bone said. “It was a fun game to be involved in, a stressful game to coach.
“Gonzaga is very good,” Bone said. “There is a reason they are the No. 10 team in the country.”
Olynyk, who had 10 points in the first 8 minutes of the second half, scored three straight baskets as Gonzaga built a 41-36 lead.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Harris and Mike Hart gave Gonzaga a 56-45 lead with 7:26 left.
Lacy hit two 3-pointers to bring WSU within 58-51 with 6 minutes left and consecutive 3-pointers by Motum cut Gonzaga’s lead to 60-57 with 3:31 left.
Lacy’s 3-pointer tied the score at 60, but Olynyk made a putback and the free throw for a 63-60 lead. Two free throws by Motum cut Gonzaga’s lead to one.
Lacy was fouled on a drive and made both free throws to put WSU up 64-63 with 1:29 left. Olynyk made a layup for a 65-64 lead. He missed the free throw, but Gonzaga got the rebound and Olynyk hit a 3-pointer for a 68-64 lead with 33.5 seconds left.
“This was a very enthusiastic effort down the stretch,” Few said of his team.
Bone praised Lacy, who scored 17 points in the second half.
“There is a level of toughness and confidence and the other guys feed off his confidence,” Bone said of Lacy. “If he is on the floor, it raises our team’s confidence.”
Washington State leads the all-time series between the eastern Washington rivals 98-49.