With March Madness set to tip off in just a few days, could Gonzaga have an edge over their competition? Zags coach Mark Few credits the teams’ chiropractor for helping key players get healthy for important games.
“We had some great efforts out of our docs. Kelli Pearson, our team chiropractor, flew down and treated him Sunday and that made a huge difference in his recovery.”
Top-seeded Gonzaga, looking more like the dominant team from earlier this season, throttled No. 4 Pepperdine 79-61 on Monday at the Orleans Arena to advance to the WCC men’s basketball tournament championship game for the 18th consecutive season.
Wesley scored a season-high 25 points. Wiltjer returned from a hip injury to deliver 17 points and nine rebounds and the seventh-ranked Zags (31-2) unleashed their running game to pull away from the Waves (18-13). Gonzaga will face second-seeded BYU for the title tonight at 6.
“In the locker room I was saying that was one of the funnest halves I’ve played here, and a bunch of the guys agreed,” said junior Kyle Dranginis, strong off the bench for the second straight game with four points and seven rebounds. “When you’re giving it your all and all of your teammates are doing the same it’s fun out there.”
Added Wesley: “That was easily the most fun we’ve had in a game this year, just the energy we had. The crowd was great. From the players on the court to the players on the bench, everyone was really engaged. It’s good we’re starting to find ourselves again.”
Wiltjer didn’t return to Saturday’s game after an awkward fall. He started slowly against the Waves with just three first-half points but he buried two 3-pointers, scored twice in the lane and dunked home Kevin Pangos’ miss in transition during Gonzaga’s second-half spurt.
“He’s coming along; he’s toughening up,” GU coach Mark Few said. “We had some great efforts out of our docs. Kelli Pearson, our team chiropractor, flew down and treated him Sunday and that made a huge difference in his recovery.”
The Zags had one of their best defensive stretches for the first 10 minutes of the second half, getting stops, forcing turnovers and triggering their transition game. Wesley converted two of his four steals into a dunk and three-point play.
“It was great to watch our guys, especially in the second half, play defense that way, generating turnovers, deflections, getting the ball off the glass and running,” Few said.
The Zags outscored the Waves 10-0 in fastbreak points.
For a lengthy stretch, Gonzaga’s versatile offense was on display with Przemek Karnowski working on the low block, Wesley slashing into the lane, Wiltjer scoring from the rim out to the 3-point line and Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. combining to hit three 3-pointers.
Pangos had six of Gonzaga’s 17 assists. Karnowski scored nine of his 13 points in the opening 20 minutes.
“They are very balanced,” Pepperdine forward Stacy Davis said.
The Zags have strung together strong second halves in four of their last five games, outscoring Saint Mary’s 41-20, San Diego 37-22, San Francisco 54-43 and Pepperdine 44-28.
“We played hard in the first half but we didn’t get as many stops as we wanted,” Dranginis said. “We tried to set the tone more in the second half, keep the energy up and do some of the little things better. We were able to get stops and that led to easy buckets.”
Gonzaga rotated defenders at Davis, including Karnowski and Wesley, the latter opening on the talented 6-foot-6 forward. Davis managed a hard-earned 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting. He had three turnovers.
The Waves didn’t have too many secondary options. Jeremy Major scored 12 points, but the Waves made just 39 percent of their shots in the second half.
Gonzaga made 52.5 percent of its shots from the field, 47 percent beyond the arc but just 47 percent at the free-throw line.
Original Source: The Spokesman-Review