Kyle Wiltjer went for 23 points as No. 2 Gonzaga avoided disaster against No. 15 North Dakota State with an 88-76 win on Friday night.
The Zags looked to be firmly control early in the second half when North Dakota State went on a run. The Bison cut what was, at one point, an 18 point lead to just six midway through the half.* That’s when Kevin Pangos started doing Kevin Pangos things, taking over the game as he hit a series of big shots while taking control of the game.
Pangos scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half, handing out five assists and turning the ball over not-a-once, which is peak-Pangos. His numbers are down a bit this season, but the job that he has done as a pure point guard is so underrated. Few players at that position consistently make as many correct decisions as he does.
Gonzaga will advance to take on No. 7 Iowa, which will be an interesting matchup. Gonzaga doesn’t really have a player to matchup with Aaron White, and as we saw earlier tonight, White is playing as well as anyone in the country. This will be a big game for Gonzaga, as it will not only get them back to the Sweet 16, but they’ll have a great chance to get to the Elite 8 from there. Both of the higher seeds in their part of the bracket — No. 3 Iowa State and No. 6 SMU — lost in the opening round.
*(Sidenote: The run was sparked by a sophomore named Dexter Werner, who has become my new favorite college basketball player. He stands 6-foot-6 on a good day and checks in at 235 pounds, although that seems … generous. But the dude has some awkwardly effective moves on the block, and he spent the second half giving buckets to Gonzaga’s front line. He finished with a career high 22 points.)