Gonzaga saw another poor performance from its normally sharpshooting backcourt duo, but was able to rely on other scorers in a bounce-back victory.
The ninth-ranked Bulldogs look for another well-rounded showing Saturday night when they visit UCLA, which is trying to avoid another slow start.
With coach Steve Alford seeking his 500th career victory, the Bruins (8-2) are looking to extend their home winning streak over non-conference foes to 22.
“We’ll face superior talent and athleticism in a tough environment,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “So another big challenge for us.”
Senior guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. were solid from 3-point range during Gonzaga’s 7-0 start, with Pangos going 12 for 26 and Bell 17 for 37. That trend hasn’t continued in the last two games.
Both were 1 for 3 from deep and combined to go 5 for 12 from inside the arc in a 66-63 overtime loss at No. 3 Arizona last Saturday, then struggled in an 81-66 win over Washington State on Wednesday. Bell had two points and was 1 of 5 from the field while Pangos missed all six of his shots to go scoreless for the first time in his career.
Gonzaga (8-1) received key contributions elsewhere, with 7-foot-1 Przemek Karnowski scoring a career high-tying 22 points and Kyle Wiltjer adding 21. Byron Wesley had 20 points, going 10 for 14 from the floor, after scoring 12 or fewer in seven of the previous eight games.
“B Wes was unbelievable tonight,” Few said.
Pangos, who averaged a team-leading 14.4 points in 2013-14 but is down to 10.4 this season, left momentarily in the first half after a play at the rim that saw him hit the floor hard.
“I was fine,” he said. “Even when I was in we just went through the bigs. Why do anything else when that was working?”
Gonzaga is one of 10 teams with five players averaging at least 10.0 points, while UCLA is another.
The Bruins’ recently sluggish first-half performances have almost proven costly. They trailed UC Riverside by eight at halftime in a 77-66 victory Wednesday night, their 21st consecutive non-conference home win.
Norman Powell hit his first four shots of the second half, putting UCLA ahead by six on a 3-pointer with 13:37 remaining.
“I wanted to provide a spark, so I picked up my defense and offense,” said Powell, who scored 20 points and is averaging a team-best 17.9. “It has to come like that from the beginning of the game.”
UCLA trailed by two at the half of Sunday’s 75-68 win over San Diego.
The Bruins’ starting lineup ranks near the top of Division I with 71.7 points per game, but their bench’s 9.8 average is one of the lowest. UCLA’s reserves were outscored by a combined 38-7 against Riverside and San Diego.
UCLA’s four reserves averaging at least 7.1 minutes are all freshmen or sophomores.
“We’ve got a really young bench so our starting five has to pick up the pace,” said Tony Parker, who had 16 points and a career-high 16 rebounds versus Riverside. “We got to bring our own energy and that’s tough for a young team.”
Gonzaga’s bench averages 25.9 points.
This marks the start of a difficult stretch for the Bruins, who will play their next four games on the road beginning with next Saturday’s visit to No. 1 Kentucky.
These teams have split two previous meetings, with UCLA winning the last one in a 2006 NCAA tournament regional semifinal.
Gonzaga is 13-14 in road non-conference games since 2004-05.