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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

December 6, 2012 at 8:27 AM

Zags-Cougs: See what the Huskies are missing?

So another sizzler is in the books in what has developed into a rousing basketball series between Washington State and Gonzaga. The Zags survived Wednesday night in Pullman, 71-69, failing to put away the Cougars until Kevin Pangos’ contested layup with two seconds remaining to stretch their record to 9-0.

Among other things, the game underscores what the state is missing with the Huskies’ refusal to play Gonzaga (“refusal” is probably too strong a word; Washington did advance that cockamamie idea of scheduling all the games at KeyArena a few years back). What makes more sense, the Huskies taking two pre-conference trips to the state of Connecticut or restoking what was once a compelling series with Gonzaga?

Some thoughts on the night that crept out of the television:

— The Cougars will be a load for opponents in Pullman if they play with that kind of effort. Problem is, the crowd of 9,367 might prove to the biggest of the season. In a bit of irony piggybacking on their Thanksgiving-weekend football game with Washington, they may not have the full complement of students when the Huskies visit Jan. 5 (spring-semester classes start Jan. 7).

— Kevin Pangos shot: Demetri Goodson redux, March, 2009, the Rose Garden in Portland against Western Kentucky.

— Pangos couldn’t get a shot to go down (until two seconds were left), going 2 for 12. I doubt he shoots that poorly the rest of the year.

— The Cougars have talked up 6-6 Australian Dexter Kernich-Drew, and with his spidery wingspan, it’s easy to see why; he troubled Pangos all night. Now, if Kernich-Drew can increase his offensive contribution . . . he’s shooting only .293 on threes and went 2 for 8 overall against the Zags.

Kelly Olynyk, the Canadian seven-footer, looms important for the Zags. He’s not a classic back-to-the-basket center, but he’s got a nice touch around the hoop, can bang a bit and is an excellent passer.

Gary Bell, the Kentridge product, couldn’t keep up with WSU’s DaVonte Lacy (22 points) down the stretch. Zags coach Mark Few gave Bell a night off a week ago due to what he called a stomach-muscle pull, and I wonder if Bell is still feeling that.

Mike Hart’s game is huge for the Zags. On a night when WSU was outworking Gonzaga, Hart comes off the bench for 20 minutes, hits his only shot for a three and gets four rebounds (including a key offensive board down the stretch) with an assist and a steal.

— I heard some talk that Sam Dower, the Zags forward, was bothered by the flu, and perhaps that explains a sub-par night. This is a player whose offensive game is good enough for the NBA, but defense and rebounding seem to elude him.

— Without a true point guard, the Cougars are going to see a lot of full-court press in the Pac-12. I can’t remember Gonzaga playing it to the extent it did last night.

— Once again, the Cougars are playing short-handed. First it was Reggie Moore’s booting from the team, then Lacy’s knee injury that kept him out several games. Now Bainbridge product Will DiIorio is out with what appears to be a sprained ankle, perhaps worse.

— The Zags can’t lament bad luck at seeing Brock Motum drain five of seven threes, even as he entered the game having hit just 4 of 22. This is a guy who hit .397 from distance last season.

— Gonzaga needs to tighten that three-point defense up, and fast. Coming Saturday night to Spokane is 13th-ranked Illinois, which has already launched 239 treys in nine games and is hitting 40.6 percent of them.

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