The Gonzaga Bulldogs toughed out a road test 80-76, at West Virginia in a hostile environment. The Zags struggled to score in the first half and the early part of the second half, being down 10 points at one point in the second half. Gonzaga however managed to make the plays needed to pull out the victory. Full player grades ahead.
Kevin Pangos: A-
They play the second half for a reason right? Pangos, who was only 3 of 10 with 7 points in the first half, struggled to find his shot. It looked like he was not going to be able to find his shot all night, until late in the second half. With about 6 minutes left, Pangos managed to hit a mid range floater, followed by 3 three pointers to put the Zags up 8. While he had a bad turnover down the stretch that help West Virginia cut into the lead, if it wasn’t for Pangos the Zags would have lost tonight. If Pangos hits one, he hits several and late he got hot. I have said before, this team will go as Pangos goes, and he willed the team to victory tonight.
Przemek Karnowski: A
Tonight’s game was far and away the best game Karnowski has played all season. West Virginia lacked the size in side, and with Sam Dower Jr. in foul trouble; he was able to take advantage. Karnowski ended the game with a team high 19 point and 13 rebounds. Remarkably, Karnowski also managed to make 7 of 8 from the charity stripe. While he did have some bad turnovers, Karnowski was able to play good solid defense keeping his hands up which helped him stay out of trouble and stay on the court. Hopefully this game can help jump start his season as he played very well tonight.
Gary Bell Jr.: B+
Bell Jr. had another very solid game for the Zags. He finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds on only 4 of 6 shooting. The only reason I am giving Bell Jr. a B+ instead of an A, is because of his lack of aggressiveness. Bell hit a big contested jumper in the second half when Gonzaga needed a basket, but he still passes up plenty of shots. I am not saying that he should take every shot he sees, but especially at times when Gonzaga needs scoring; Bell Jr. needs to be more aggressive. Still nonetheless, he had a good game and continues to be one of the Zags most reliable guards.
Sam Dower Jr.: B
In foul trouble most of the night, Dower Jr. still found a way to impact the game. Dower Jr. ended up with 11 points of 4 of 7 shooting, but only played 19 minutes. Dower Jr. had a Karnowski type of foul trouble night. With two early fouls, he was out of most of the first half. Down the stretch, Dower Jr. managed to have a crucial put back slam off the Gary Bell Jr. miss, then the free-throw to ice the game. It was in no means Dower Jr.’s best game, but he managed to make some big plays down the stretch.
David Stockton: B
Stockton ran the offense well tonight, and really got Gonzaga out in transition. He only had 5 points on the night, but dished out 8 assists including two big ones that lead to Pango’s threes. The knock I have on Stockton’s play tonight was his turnover with a 1:26 left in the game that caused him to foul out. Gonzaga was only up 4 points at the time and luckily West Virginia missed the front end of the one in one, but it could have been a big swing. Stockton is suppose to be the best ball handler on the floor for the Zags and should be better with the ball especially down the stretch. Good thing for the Zags it turned out alright.
Kyle Dranginis: B
The Zags needed help off the bench tonight and while the box scorer does not indicate it as much, watching the game, Dranginis provided good bench support. He played his season high in minutes (31) and was called upon to both play the 3 and 4 positions. Dranginis was only 3 of 10 from the field with 8 points but played hard and got several good looks at the basket. Dranginis keeps proving that he deserves minutes and has a much more confident look than a season ago. The shots did not fall for him tonight, but he had good looks and they will begin to fall.
Drew Barham: D
Barham get’s minutes for Gonzaga because of the lack of depth inside, but mostly because of his three point shooting ability. He was 0 for 3 from deep and thus only saw 10 minutes of action. Barham has shot well for most of the season, but tonight it wasn’t there. In order for him to be effective he needs to hit his open looks and rebound. Only bringing in 1 rebound, and not scoring does not help the Zags. It was not a good night for Barham and his minutes were limited, but if he can knock down his looks he will get more playing time.
Gerard Coleman: D-
Gonzaga will need Gerard Coleman this season, and he will be a vital component off the bench. Against New Mexico State, he looked awesome, tonight, not so much. Coleman had 4 points on 2 of 4 shooting and had 3 turnovers in only 6 minutes of action. Coleman is explosive in the lane and the open court but needs to find a way to slow it down and stay under control. He makes plays that no one else on the court can, but also drives into two or three defenders and turns the ball over. Instead of pulling the ball out, or driving and kicking, Coleman kept trying to get to the basket and was denied. He was benched the entire second half and it hurts the Zags. The rotation gets smaller and you can’t rely on him to hold onto the ball. Once Coleman learns how to play within himself he will be a vital member of this team, but until then he will have games like tonight where his minutes are limited.
All in all, Gonzaga came out with a big win tonight against a Big 12 opponent. In the first true road game of the season this team had enough to be down and still grind out a win. The Zags will have to learn to be stronger with the ball down the stretch and close out games, but tonight they got away with it. Three turnovers in the final 2 minutes is not how you close out a game, but on the road any victory is a good one.