November 15, 2011
If Gonzaga guard Kevin Pangos lacked a nickname prior to Monday night's 89-81 win over rival Washington State, teammate Robert Sacre may have anointed the sweet-shooting freshman with one after the game.
"He's like a vending machine," Sacre told the Spokane Spokesman Review. "You know what you're getting when you put a coin in."
On Monday night, "the vending machine" was spitting out three-pointers — a school record-tying nine of them to be precise.
In his second-ever college game and his first career start, Pangos showcased the skill set that has led Canada to call him its future national team point guard, lighting up Washington State for 33 points including 9 of 13 shooting from behind three-point arc. The 33 points helped the Zags build a 21-point second-half lead and were the most ever scored by a Gonzaga freshman, more than even Adam Morrison, Blake Stepp or Dan Dickau.
What's so significant about Pangos' breakout game is point guard is the position Gonzaga appeared to be the weakest at again this season. Top defender Demetri Goodson left the program to play football at Baylor, overachieving former walk-on David Stockton can be vulnerable against longer, quicker high-major guards and Pangos is a true freshman who many feared might not be ready to inherit the position.
It's too soon to say whether this performance from Pangos is an aberration or a sign of things to come, but at the very least it should be a confidence builder. In addition to his scoring barrage, Pangos dished out six assists, committed just two turnovers and played credible defense against Washington State point guard Reggie Moore, holding him to just five points midway through the second half before a late burst to get to 14.
Gonzaga doesn't need Pangos to score 33 every night, but it would give the Zags a huge boost if he ran the offense smoothly, knocked down open jump shots and kept improving his perimeter defense. Add a quality point guard to a team that already includes front court standouts Robert Sacre, Elias Harris and Sam Dower and talented wings Marquise Carter and Gary Bell, and suddenly the Zags look like a threat to make a deep March run.