WSU storms back but GU 3s can't be overcome

THE DEPTH OF basketball talent in the Puget Sound region makes finding undiscovered talent rare. And while Washington State fell short in its bid to upset No. 23 Gonzaga, 89-81, a first-year Cougar showed Wazzu shouldn't have to until the vaunted 2012 recruiting class arrives to have an impact freshman.

This one will be remembered for the performance of Bulldogs freshman Kevin Pangos, who tied a Gonzaga record with nine 3-pointers en route to a game-high 33 points. But WSU fought back from a 60-39 deficit after Pangos hit a 3-pointer with 13:05 left.

"We didn't give up -- that's for sure," WSU coach Ken Bone said in a postgame radio interview. "We could've easily thrown in the towel and started pointing fingers. I think that showed a lot of character on our kids part."

It started with freshman guard DaVonté Lacy, who seemingly garnered little recruiting attention when Bone signed him out of Curtis High in University Place last year. In his first official collegiate game, Lacy hit consecutive 3-pointers -- the final one coming with about three minutes left -- to cut the Bulldogs' lead to 77-73. He converted 4 of 7 shots en route to 11 points.

"DaVonté did a nice job," Bone said. "Without him out there, I don't think we make it a game down the stretch."

That effort was enough to keep the Cougars close as junior point guard Reggie Moore, who had 14 points, hit a couple of 3-pointers in the final 90 seconds to cut Gonzaga's advantage to 84-81 with 27.3 seconds remaining. But Gonzaga's 7-foot center Robert Sacre and Pangos hit the final four free throws to secure the victory.

It was surprising that WSU came that close even though the game started about as ideally as possible for the post-challenged Cougars when Sacre picked up two fouls less than four minutes into the game.

While many wondered how the Cougars (0-1) could contain Gonzaga's talent in the post, it was the perimeter where the Bulldogs won. Pangos converted 6 of 9 3-pointers in the first half en route to 18 points at the intermission.

"We were right on him on a few of those," Bone said. "It's kind of like what we've seen the last few years with Klay Thompson. That's what Pangos did tonight."

PLAYING ITS FIRST game in three years without Klay Thompson, who was the 11th pick in the NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors, WSU struggled to find offensive rhythm early as it fell behind 8-1. They also were being dominated on the boards.

The Cougars closed their deficit to 11-8 when senior guard Faisal Aden hit a 3-pointer with 13:06 minutes left in the first half. But then Gonzaga began to run away.

Many felt WSU featured an advantage with its guard play, but the Cougars could not match Gonzaga's outside shooting prowess. The Bulldogs (2-0) converted 10 of 20 3-pointers during the first half -- the final coming by Pangos on a second-chance opportunity that helped Gonzaga build a 40-25 advantage.

Even without Sacre, WSU was dominated on the boards during the first half. The Bulldogs had a 20-14 rebounding advantage, including seven offensive boards. Pangos' 3-pointer gave Gonzaga a 13-2 edge in second-chance points.

"The disappointing part is the second-chance points," Bone said. "We've got to get better at rebounding and it's going to be hard."

Perhaps the biggest highlight for the Cougars was Motum. The 6-foot-10 junior helped get the Bulldogs into foul trouble early and had a team-high 10 points at half, which included an offensive rebound and layup just before the buzzer to cut WSU's deficit to 41-32. Motum finished with a team-high 17 points.

In addition to allowing Gonzaga to convert 13 of 29 3-pointers, the Cougars did not help themselves at the free-throw line. WSU made just 14 of 21 attempts from the stripe, while the Bulldogs finished 30 of 37.

The Cougars play their home opener at 7:05 p.m. Thursday against Sacramento State.

"We've just got to bounce back from this loss," said WSU guard Mike Ladd, who scored 13 points in his debut for the school after transferring from Fresno State. "We have to keep fighting."

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