Spokane, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - As part of the NIT Season Tip-Off, the 13th- ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs will entertain the Saint Joseph's Hawks at McCarthey Athletic Center.
Poor shooting and close calls have highlighted the first two games of the season for the Hawks. They lost to Fairleigh Dickinson, 58-57, on a last- second 3-pointer in the opener, and only barely defeated cross-town foe Drexel, 52-49, on Monday night. Those aren't the type of foundational wins that breed confidence for a matchup with a Top-25 team like Gonzaga, or even a solid mid-major squad like Vermont, which the Hawks play next.
The Bulldogs have made quick work of their first two opponents, even though one of them also is among the nationally ranked. Gonzaga dominated No. 22 SMU on Monday night en route to a 72-56 victory. The Bulldogs blasted past Sacramento State by a score of 104-58 in the opener. They will host St. Thomas Aquinas, a Division II team from New York, next.
In five previous meetings with Saint Joseph's, Gonzaga has come out on top three times. The Bulldogs claimed a 70-65 victory in overtime in the last matchup, which occurred in 2007.
Despite shooting 35.3 percent from the floor, including a ghastly 1-of-11 showing from 3-point range, the Hawks still managed to escape with a win over Drexel. They did their part on defense, limiting the Dragons to 34 percent shooting, while recording 10 steals. A slim 38-35 advantage in rebounds was critical as well.
Through the first two games, DeAndre' Bembry and Aaron Brown have been the two top scorers for the Hawks, with Bembry totaling 21 points in the first two games and Brown adding 20. Bembry has had more chances to pad his total, but he has connected on just 8-of-23 shots from the floor. He has made an impact in other areas, gathering 13 rebounds, seven assists and five steals. Brown is averaging 28.5 minutes per game off the bench and has connected on 8-of-15 attempts from the field. Isaiah Miles is the third-best scorer early on, while racking up 22 total rebounds in two games. James Demery joined Bembry and Brown in double figures against Drexel, finishing with 12 points.
Kevin Pangos did a little bit of everything to help Gonzaga get past SMU on Monday. He hit five 3-pointers en route to 17 points, dished out seven assists and grabbed five rebounds. His steady hand was crucial for the Bulldogs, who assisted on 20 of their 27 field goals as a team, while shooting 45 percent from the floor. They also limited the Mustangs to 31.1 percent shooting, while scoring 21 points off of turnovers.
Pangos will be the focal point for the Bulldogs all season. He can shoot exceptionally well from 3-point range, as he has proven by nailing 7-of-11 attempts from beyond the arc already. His passing also is important, as he has 10 assists through the first two games. Kyle Wiltjer is averaging 14 points through the first two games and Domantas Sabonis has been excellent off the bench, with 27 points and 17 rebounds combined.