There were some things that happened on Saturday afternoon at Intrust Bank Arena that Gonzaga leading scorer Kevin Pangos was prepared for.
He knew Kansas State would be tough — the Wildcats came in on a five-game winning streak and Gonzaga coach Mark Few has a lot of respect for K-State coach Bruce Weber.
He knew Wichita’s downtown arena, just two hours south of Manhattan, was going to be a crazy place to play — 13,224 screaming fans backed that up.
It was the things that snuck up on him that led to the 6-foot-2 junior and his teammates taking a surprising 72-62 upset loss to the Wildcats.
“(K-State) came out and they were really denying me the ball and making sure I didn’t get touches,” Pangos said. “It was frustrating for me, but also frustrating for our team as a whole. Not just about me.”
But it was Pangos’ offensive struggles — and K-State’s defensive tenacity — that defined the first half for No. 21 Gonzaga. Pangos, who entered Saturday’s game averaging 18.7 points, was held scoreless in the first half on 0-for-3 shooting in 19 minutes.
“The guys did a good job coming out and locking down on Pangos and (Gonzaga) guard Gary Bell in the first half, Bell for the whole game,” Weber said. “That showed some tenacity.”
Bell, Gonzaga’s third-leading scorer at 14.5 points, finished 1 of 7 shooting for a season-low three points.
K-State senior Will Spradling spent most of his 35 minutes on the court chasing Pangos in one of the better defensive efforts of his career, albeit one that came with Pangos heating up in the second half for 14 points.
“I needed to do a better job of getting myself open, of moving through screens and that was what was different for me (in the second half),” Pangos said. “But (K-State) got after everybody. I thought they did a really good job of playing team defense, not just defending one or two guys.
And while the loss may have come as a bit of a shock to the Bulldogs, Few offered no such argument.
“That’s a tough, physical matchup from the get-go,” Few said. “That’s how Bruce’s teams always play. We couldn’t handle the pressure and make the plays on offense we needed to get us over the hump.
“We came into today doing a pretty good job of getting to the free-throw line but we couldn’t do that tonight, which is a credit to Kansas State’s defense.”