Karnowski leads No. 7 Gonzaga to 81-72 WCC tournament win
LAS VEGAS (AP) Gonzaga coach Mark Few was fully aware his team might feel the effects of a one-week layoff when it opened play in the West Coast Conference tournament Saturday night.
It took the No. 7 Bulldogs all of the first half and several minutes of the second half to get their legs under them, but when they did, they were almost unstoppable.
Gonzaga overcame a two-point deficit by scoring 16 unanswered points in a four-minute stretch to beat San Francisco 81-72 and advance to the WCC semifinals at Orleans Arena.
Przemek Karnowski scored 24 points, and forward Kyle Wiltjer added 19 before leaving the game with a hip injury in the final five minutes.
''I knew going in that it's sometimes hard for a team, if you've sat and haven't played a game yet, to play somebody that's already been here and been accustomed to everything,'' Few said.
The Zags (30-2), who play Pepperdine on Monday night, had six days between games. They lost their regular-season conference finale to BYU, ending a 41-game home winning streak, then sat as USF (14-18) played its tournament opener Friday night.
It likely contributed to a sluggish start in which Gonzaga shot 35.5 percent in the opening half and trailed at one point 29-22.
But after falling behind by four in the opening minutes of the second half, the Zags stepped up at both ends. During one productive stretch, they outscored the Dons 19-1.
''We were able to get through that first half, then I thought we got the pace going in the second half and stepped up and started shooting the ball and making shots like we're capable of,'' Few said. ''And all the while, we played pretty darn good defense.''
The Zags routed USF twice during the regular season, including a 31-point win in January, but the Dons were able to keep the game competitive by taking away outside shots and forcing the ball inside, where Gonzaga was hit and miss.
''We definitely gave ourselves a chance to beat a very good team, a top-10 team in the country,'' San Francisco coach Rex Walters said. ''There was just a little span where we couldn't seem to make a shot, couldn't seem to get a call, and they made shots. They took advantage of it.''
Wiltjer landed hard on his left hip with five minutes remaining and retreated to the locker room. Few said the 6-foot-10 forward will be evaluated Sunday before a decision is made if he can play in the semifinal.
''He's really, really sore,'' Few said. ''He went back in the tunnel and tried to run but didn't feel right so he didn't go back in.''
Key to the Gonzaga's second-half surge was its 3-point shooting. The Bulldogs made just 2 of 12 from long distance in the first half, then converted 5 of 9 in the second half. Guard Kevin Pangos, who finished with 10 points before fouling out, missed all five of his 3s in the opening half but was good on 2 of 3 in the second half.
''I'm just going to keep shooting until they fall,'' he said. ''That's my mentality.''