Gonzaga makes Pacific 22nd straight WCC victim

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SPOKANE, Wash. -- Each and every winter, Gonzaga basketball players dutifully line up before television cameras and tape recorders at the start of the West Coast Conference season and inform the media that competition in the WCC "gets better every year."

The Bulldogs have a funny way of backing up their words. The 24th-ranked Zags stretched their WCC winning streak to 22 by blasting Pacific 86-64 Saturday night at McCarthey Athletic Center.

Gonzaga (14-2, 4-0 WCC) combined brilliant shooting with stiff defense to record its fourth decisive victory in as many tries in the WCC this season. Gonzaga is 195-21 (.903) in the WCC with 14 regular-season championships over the past 16 seasons, all of which culminated in NCAA tournament appearances.

The Bulldogs shot 69.2 percent and held Pacific to a season-low 31.7 percent. Gonzaga made up for a poor shooting night at the free-throw line (22 of 39 for 56.4 percent) by hitting a season-high 76.5 percent from 3-point range (10 of 13).

Swingman Drew Barham and guard Kevin Pangos spearheaded yet another balanced Gonzaga attack. They scored 16 points apiece. Point guard David Stockton added 15, and Sam Dower Jr. had 13.

"I was very disappointed in our defense," Pacific coach Ron Verlin said.

Verlin wasn't impressed with the Tigers' offense, either. Except for a hot stretch of 3-point shooting early in the second half -- when Gonzaga's lead briefly slipped to eight points -- the Tigers struggled all night against the tenacious Bulldogs defense.

"Flying around -- that's our key," Barham said. "Flying around, making energy plays and making hustle plays."

The Bulldogs, playing before their usual sellout crowd of 6,000, bolted to leads of 16-3 and 37-13 before settling for a 46-25 halftime advantage.

"I was very disappointed in our start," Verlin said.

Barham, a senior who came into the game averaging a career-high 7.1 points per game, scored 12 points in the first four minutes by sinking his first four shots -- three 3-pointers and a reserve layin that he coupled with a free throw.

Barham finished 5 for 6 from the field, including 4 for 5 on 3-pointers.

"He's got a lot of confidence in his shot right now," Pangos said.

"We knew Barham could shoot it. ... We weren't challenging him," Verlin said.

Pangos added to Verlin's angst by sinking 5 of 7 shots, including 3 of 4 treys. Stockton buried all nine of his shots -- five field goals (one 3-pointer) and four free throws.

The Bulldogs also dominated Pacific down low. Dower, seeing his first extensive action since bruising his lower back Dec. 21 against Kansas State, had seven rebounds in 20 minutes.

"I know he's in pain," Pangos said, "but he fought through it."

"We're glad to have him back," Barham said. "He made some big shots in the second half when they started making their run."

Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski missed 10 of 15 free throws, but the 7-foot-1 sophomore finished with nine points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots. Karnowski was playing in front of his parents for the final time before they return home to Poland after making their first visit to Spokane.

"Karnowsky is a giant in there," Verlin said. "He's tough to handle."

David Taylor, a freshman guard who had scored two points in limited action this season, came off the bench to score 11 points in 13 minutes and "really inserted some life into us," Verlin said. No other Tiger had more than nine points.

"He'll be getting some more playing time," Verlin promised.

The Tigers have lost three in a row and four of five since their 8-1 start. Gonzaga has won four straight games and 20 consecutive home games.

NOTES: Pacific rejoined the WCC this season after spending the previous 42 seasons in the Big West Conference. The Tigers were original members of the WCC (then known as the California Basketball Association) in 1952-53. ... Ron Verlin, who assisted Bob Thomason at Pacific for 19 years, is spending his first season as a head coach at any level. Thomason retired after ending his 25-year coaching stint at his alma mater with an NCAA tournament appearance last season. Verlin is the twin brother of Idaho coach Don Verlin. ... Saturday's game was just the fifth ever played between Pacific and Gonzaga. The Bulldogs lead the series 4-1.

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