LACY FIRES UP A 3 OVER BELL
PULLMAN -- After barely surviving a 71-69 nail-biter before a raucous audience at Beasley Coliseum, the No. 10-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs insisted they were not at all surprised by the Cougars, who are predicted to finish 10th in the Pac-12.
“We definitely thought they would (play well),” said Gonzaga guard Gary Bell Jr., the former Kentridge High School star.
“Absolutely,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “I mean, down here? Yeah.
“I knew they’d play incredibly inspired and passionate, with a purpose.”
The Cougars were certainly not pleased with the loss, but they took some satisfaction in taking Gonzaga (9-0) down to the wire. WSU is 7-122 all-time against Top 10 opponents.
“It was a great college basketball game, there’s no doubt about it,” Washington State coach Ken Bone said. “It was a fun game to be involved in. A stressful game to coach.”
Added Few: “Ken always has a great game plan.”
The Cougars (5-4) received a huge boost from Curtis High product DaVonté Lacy. A team captain as a sophomore, Lacy came off the bench and scored a career-high 22 points after missing the previous four games with a left knee injury.
“There’s a level of toughness and confidence (in Lacy),” Bone said. “I think our guys feed off his confidence.
COUGAR FANS ROAR THEIR APPROVAL OF THE HOME TEAM WEDNESDAY AT FRIEL COURT.
“When he’s on the floor, he’s got a presence, because the other guys believe in him.”
Lacy made a believer out of the Bulldogs when he made a number of key plays at crunch time. Gonzaga chose to pursue Bell over Lacy out of high school -- both are sophomore wings -- but Bell and Few said they’ve long known about Lacy’s skill set.
“We’ve played against each other pretty much our whole lives,” Bell said.
“We only had room for one (wing recruit in 2011),” Few recalled. “We looked at him (Lacy) and liked him.”
WSU’s Brock Motum and Gonzaga’s Elias Harris, two of the 50 players named to the preseason Wooden Award watch list for college player of the year, led all players with 23 points each. Kelly Olynyk added 22 – all during a brilliant second half for Gonzaga -- off the bench.
“He’s a good player,” said Motum, who exchanged elbows and words with Olynyk at times. “He converted pretty well at the end. He made some big plays.”
Few has said Motum will be “an 11-year, 12-year NBA guy.”
As for Olynyk, a 7-foot forward who can bang inside or drain 3-pointers, Bell said, “He’s going to be playing for a lot of money.”
Olynyk, Harris and Motum joined Lacy in making big-time plays down the stretch. Of course, Kevin Pangos saved the biggest play for last.
Pangos, struggling mightily all night after torching the Cougs a year ago, drove down the right side to score the game-winning layin with 2.2 seconds left. One year after he lit up WSU for nine 3-pointers and 33 points, Pangos missed 10 of his 11 shots before sinking the winner.
“He played very poorly,” Few said, “yet he stuck with it.”
“He’s one of the best point guards in the country,” Lacy said. “That was just a tough shot.
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“I mean, there were two, maybe three hands (near his face), but he hit it off the glass. One of the first shots he made. You can’t play any better defense than that.”
Pangos, listed at 6-2, missed some open shots and also had trouble getting free from tall, lean Dexter Kernich-Drew.
“He’s not a lock-down, tough, Gary Payton, get-in-your-face type of defender,” Bone said of Kernich-Drew, “but he’s 6-6, long arms, good anticipation. Very much the way Klay (former WSU star Klay Thompson) was.”
The Cougars have struggled at the gate since Thompson left for the NBA two years ago, but a raucous crowd of 9,367 -- including plenty of Gonzaga fans -- turned out Wednesday. WSU had been averaging just 4,521.
“I wish we could have more crowds like this,” Motum said. “I think we’d win a lot more games.”
The Cougars like to think they’ll win a lot more games at home and on the road if they duplicate Wednesday’s effort.
“I’m just really proud of our guys … we battled through some adversity and showed some real toughness,” Bone said.
“They got up seven or eight,” Lacy said, “we could have easily just thrown the towel in and said, ‘We played a Top 10 team tough’ and call it a night.
“I think it’s a testament to our team we kept in there.”
Brian Quinnett, one of the greatest basketball players in Washington State history, was saluted at halftime Wednesday as part of WSU’s first “Honor the Past Night.” Coach Ken Bone pushed for an annual honor for one former WSU basketball player. Quinnett was presented with a plaque during the nationally televised game with Gonzaga. Quinnett, who was raised in Cheney and now resides in Moscow, ranks ninth in WSU history with 1,408 points. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged career highs of 18.4 points and 5.9 rebounds as a senior in 1988-89. The New York Knicks selected him in the second round (50th overall) of the 1989 NBA draft. He averaged 3.4 points and 1.6 rebounds in three NBA seasons. The Knicks traded Quinnett to Dallas for ex-WSU center James Donaldson midway through the 1991-92 season.
Quinnett also played professionally in Spain and in the Continental Basketball Association.
The Cougars have four more non-conference games (two in Pullman and one each in Seattle and Kennewick) before the Pac-12 portion of the season starts Jan. 5 with a 6:30 p.m. tip off in Pullman against Washington. Until the Huskies come to town, the Cougs have Fresno State (this Sunday) and Jackson State (Dec. 13) at Friel Court before heading to Seattle’s KeyArena on Dec. 21 to take on Buffalo and then to Kennewick on Dec. 29 for a contest with Idaho State.
MOTUM TAKES AIM FROM DOWNTOWN AGAINST PRZEMEK KARNOWSKI.