PULLMAN – Washington State coach Ken Bone is one of many college basketball observers who maintains that the current edition of the Gonzaga Bulldogs has the potential to be the best team in school history.
The Bulldogs often failed to live up to Bone’s assessment – or their No. 10 national ranking – Wednesday night. However, Gonzaga point guard Kevin Pangos drove for a lay-in with 2.2 seconds remaining to lift the Bulldogs past the scrappy Cougars, 71-69.
A sensational, hard-fought game featured brilliant second-half performances by Gonzaga forward Kelly Olynyk and Washington State guard DaVonté Lacy.
Olynyk, coming off the bench after starting the previous game, scored all 22 of his points after halftime. Lacy, back in action after missing four games with a knee injury, poured in 17 of his career-high 22 points in the final half.
Olynyk and Lacy both hit several clutch baskets down the stretch. Lacy, a former Curtis High star, blew past ex-Kentridge High standout Gary Bell Jr. for a lay-in that tied the score at 69-all with 8 seconds remaining.
Bell sank the second of two free throws with 14 seconds to go. He finished with 14 points.
Elias Harris led Gonzaga with 23 points. He tied WSU’s Brock Motum for game-scoring honors.
Motum nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to narrow Gonzaga’s lead to 60-57 with 3:31 to play, and Lacy then drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game with 2:56 remaining.
The Cougars had been 5-0 at home, but those wins came against teams ranked 187th to 337th out of 347 NCAA Division I teams in the latest Pomeroy Ratings. Those ratings had Gonzaga at No. 7 and WSU at No. 104.
The Bulldogs, who started the day leading the nation in field-goal shooting percentage at 53.3, hit 50.9 percent against WSU. The Cougars had not allowed anyone to shoot better than 45.5 percent this season.
Gonzaga, loaded with size, athleticism, depth, experience and balanced scoring, improved to 9-0. The Bulldogs take on No. 13 Illinois on Saturday at home (7 p.m., ESPN2).
The Cougars (5-4) next face visiting Fresno State on Sunday (noon, Pac-12 Networks).
Brian Quinnett was honored at halftime with the first Honor the Past award. WSU plans to honor one former Cougars basketball standout every season.
Quinnett, a Cheney native who spent three seasons in the NBA, ranks ninth in WSU history with 1,408 points. He was honored on the 26th anniversary of his school-record, 45-point game against Loyola Marymount on Dec. 5, 1986.