No. 8 Gonzaga struggles past Cal Poly 63-50

SEATTLE (AP) Any mention of what might be on the horizon for No. 8 Gonzaga was put off until after its yearly visit to KeyArena.

It was brought up in the locker room only briefly, but it was acknowledged that the Bulldogs could be back in the same building a few months down the road when the NCAA tournament returns to Seattle.

''I hope. That would be nice. We have so many Zag fans out there,'' Gonzaga's Gary Bell Jr. said.

Kevin Pangos scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half, and No. 8 Gonzaga struggled to shake pesky Cal Poly before pulling away for a 63-50 win Saturday night.

Gonzaga (11-1) was flat throughout and at times uncommonly sloppy playing its annual game before its large Seattle-area fan base. Cal Poly (5-5) hung around late into the second half before the Bulldogs finally put away the Mustangs in the final 6 minutes.

Pangos hit three 3-poitners in the second half, and 7-foot-1 Przemek Karnowski finished with 16 points, including 11 in the first half.

''I think that's where we struggled at times, we got caught in bad spots and (were) maybe too tentative, maybe too aggressive at bad times,'' Pangos said. ''So we've got to learn from that but overall we did what we had to do.''

David Nwaba scored a season-high 21 points, but was the only Cal Poly player to reach double figures.

Gonzaga wanted to make a better impression on the fans it hopes to see again in March. The Bulldogs committed 16 turnovers, second-most this season. They hit only one 3-pointer in the first half while scoring 28 points. And they were never able to get a comfortable lead against the Mustangs.

Pangos hit a pair of 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the second half to push Gonzaga's lead to 38-26. Instead of wilting, the Mustangs charged back, scoring the next eight points and forcing Gonzaga coach Mark Few to call timeout with 14:21 left.

Pangos answered with his fourth 3-pointer, but the Mustangs continued to linger. Karnowski's two free throws and a 3-pointer from Kyle Dranginis put the Bulldogs up 10 with 11 minutes remaining. Kyle Toth's 3-pointer with 7:31 left pulled the Mustangs back within seven.

Cal Poly missed three chances to cut the lead to five, while free throws from Kyle Wiltjer and a layup by Bell pushed Gonzaga's advantage to nine. Wiltjer added two more free throws and the lead was back to 11.

DEFENSE WINS

Few was pleased with Gonzaga's half-court defense that limited the Mustangs to 39.6 percent shooting and didn't let Cal Poly's other scoring help out Nwaba. Brian Bennett was held to nine points and Reese Morgan had seven points, both under their season averages of 12.2 and 10.5, respectively.

It was the 12th time since the start of the 2012-13 season that the Bulldogs held an opponent to 50 points or less.

''We won it with our half-court defense. When we were in the half-court we were pretty darn efficient with what we were doing and making them take tough ones,'' Few said.

READY FOR THE WCC

Gonzaga still has a non-conference game against Memphis in late January, but Saturday's victory was the Bulldogs' final game before the start of West Coast Conference play.

The Bulldogs play three straight on the road to open the WCC schedule.

''I'm really happy with where these guys are at but you've got to keep moving forward and where we're going to be is probably the most important thing,'' Few said.

TIP-INS

Cal Poly: The Mustangs were leading the country with just 7.1 turnovers per game, but committed nine in the first half against the Bulldogs and finished with a season-high 16.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs were No. 4 in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.70) starting the night but committed seven first-half turnovers. That matched Gonzaga's total from its win over Texas Southern earlier this week. The Bulldogs finished with a season-low 10 assists.

UP NEXT

Cal Poly travels to face Santa Clara on Tuesday afternoon.

Gonzaga opens WCC play at BYU on Dec. 27.

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