Kevin Pangos gives the Bulldogs a quiet intensity on the court.

(Photo: Sportsnet Magazine)

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Kevin Pangos's expression is as blank as any you'd find at the final table of the World Series of Poker. Pangos, Gonzaga University's point guard, has the ball out on the perimeter and his eyes are darting, tracking the nine bodies in front of him. Robert Sacre has his right hand out, giving Pangos a target for an entry pass, and his left hand is discreetly behind him, trying to fend off the defender leaning over his back. There's no pass there, no way to get the ball to the seven-footer in the paint. Pangos has to wait for something to open up. Biding his time, reloading, he moves the ball around the perimeter and Sacre is left double-teamed and waiting.

The good citizens of Spokane, Wash., are devoted to the hometown Bulldogs, but those in attendance at the McCarthy Center are restless. Gonzaga is facing unusually stiff resistance from the Broncos of Santa Clara University. A box-and-one defence has the Bulldogs flummoxed in the early going. Pangos can't crack it, can't find Sacre, can't get off a three-pointer. The Broncos have done their homework. They run out to a 10-point lead in the first half.

Going into this game, Gonzaga was sitting at No. 21 in the country. Seven days before, the Zags registered their best win of the season, beating the previously eighth-ranked Xavier Musketeers. Santa Clara shouldn't even be close. It's hard to believe that the seven-foot centre waving helplessly down on the blocks has been mentioned as an NBA first-round pick. It's hard to believe that the guard who's stymied 25 feet from the basket was, for one night in November, the talk of college basketball. National hoops officials are counting on these two as key pieces for Canadian teams in world and Olympic play for the next decade. Early on against Santa Clara, however, they look nothing like that.


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