Kyle Wiltjer scored a career-high 45 points. Kevin Pangos dished out 8 assists and drew three field goal negating charges. Gary Bell Jr. rediscovered his shooting stroke. Meanwhile, Pacific was playing its best game of the season in front of the most raucous home crowd of the year.
Business as usual for the Zags, who took their opponent's best shot on the road and left with at least a share of their 17th WCC regular season title in the past 19 seasons. For the second straight season that title clinching win comes at the Alex G. Spanos Center in Stockton, California.
Pacific began the game with an impressive series of possessions on the offensive end of the floor. Exquisite execution on a few possessions, coupled with a few good hustle possessions and the Tigers held an early 9-7 lead.
Gonzaga is arguably the best offensive team in the country. So it wasn't a surprise when Gary Bell answered with an NBA range three pointer to give the Zags a 10-9 lead barely three minutes into the game. While they ultimately fell short, the Zags spent almost the entire first half on pace to hit triple-digits in scoring.
Kyle Wiltjer had 17 points in the first ten minutes and the Zags hit their first six threes but were unable to really pull ahead like those two tidbits would lead you to expect.
That's because the Tigers were also hot from behind the arc, hitting six of ten threes in the first half. Pacific averages 6.4 made three pointers per game. Zag fans are all too familiar with poor three point shooting teams lighting it up from deep against Gonzaga (see 2013 NCAA Tournament Round of 32).
On four separate occasions in the first half one team would drill a three and the other would answer immediately on the other end with a three of their own.
The Zags upped their defensive intensity coming out of the break. Pacific went 2-9 from the field over the first five minutes of the second half and turned the ball over twice. Gonzaga took advantage and pulled out to a 13 point lead, their largest lead until their final possession.
But then the Tigers stormed back, once again with hot shooting from deep.
David Taylor hit back-to-back threes, then drilled another a moment later. The Zags lead was cut to eight. While Kyle Wiltjer had been playing stellar all night long, he took over just when the Tigers seemed poised for a big run.
Wiltjer scored 23 of his 22 points in the second half, which on the surface seems like he scored half of his points in one half of the game and half of his points in the other half. But that wasn't quite the case. Over an eight minute span Wiltjer scored 14 of the Zags 18 points. He knocked down threes, got to the line, banged in the post and showed his ball handling and shot creation abilities.
His multifaceted skill-set was on full display on a career high night. More importantly, that career night clinched a share of the WCC regular season title.
Four Tigers scored in double-figures, led by T.J. Wallace's 19. Wallace hit a three in the final seconds that, very fittingly, followed Wiltjer's late-in-the-shot-clock three on the other end of the floor.
Pacific played quite possibly its best game of the season but still didn't have enough to get past the third ranked Zags.
Gonzaga improves to 15-0 in conference play and is 27-1 overall.