Motum Gets Under Zags' Skin

PULLMAN -- It was a minor miracle Brock Motum and Kelly Olynyk didn't head to a UFC-sanctioned cage match instead of meeting with reporters after Gonzaga's wild 71-69 win Wednesday night at Beasley Coliseum. Sure, it was Kevin Pangos who shattered the collective hearts of the 9,367 in attendance with his last second runner, but the pair of big men were the story.

Both went back-and-forth like a pair of heavyweight prize fighters.

Motum finished with 23 points in 37 minutes, the last 11 of which came in on a trio of threes and two crucial free throws in the final five minutes.

Olynyk did all his damage in the second half, dropping 22 points on 10-for-14 shooting, helping the Zags dominate WSU in the paint by a 42-24 margin. He silenced the raucous crowd three times in the last three minutes by converting two "and-ones" and knocking down a three to give the Zags a 68-64 lead with 33 seconds remaining.

Granted, the seven-foot center's hair during his 31 minutes of action looked like a wet mop being dragged through a fraternity basement the morning after a triple kegger -- but that didn't keep Motum from complimenting the junior from Kamloops, British Columbia. Motum said their rivalry dates back to when the two played for their respective junior national teams.

"It was a good battle," Motum said. "I look forward to more challenges like that. He hit some big shots towards the end."

The politically correct answer from WSU's senior leader did little to deflect attention away from what was an extremely physical battle down low. Elbows were thrown, words were exchanged and the officiating crew hit Motum with a technical foul midway through the first half.

"It was just two guys playing hard," Motum said when asked about the exchange.

Bone said afterward he doesn't mind his all-Pac-12 player getting chippy at times, but noted it's a trait he'll have to manage as WSU winds down their non-conference schedule.

"It's a tough one because I don't want – he's a great kid," Bone said. "But there's great kids and that's what gets them fired up. He's got to manage that. We've talked about it. He'll get better at it."

The Cougars' chances of pulling off a monumental upset looked bleak in the final minute until Motum came through. Trailing 68-64 with 14 seconds remaining, Motum heaved a 30-foot bomb that hit nothing but twine.

GU swingman Gary Bell followed by splitting a pair of free throws before DaVonté Lacy drove the length of the court, laying it in with eight seconds left. That knotted the game at 69 and set up Pangos's remarkable runner with 2.2 seconds left. Lacy then unloaded a desperation trey from three-quarters court, but the attempt fell short.

The sophomore played remarkably in his first game back since suffering a knee injury Nov. 19 against Kansas. He brushed off the typical rust that would accompany missing four games, scoring 22 points on 8-for-15 shooting. He also knocked down four crucial treys to give WSU a chance, three of which came after the Cougars trailed 56-45 with 7:30 remaining.

"For me personally I wasn't shooting real great going into the second half," he said. "My teammates just said keep shooting, keep shooting so I did and it kept falling."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Lacy and Motum combined for 45 of WSU's 69 points. Mike Ladd chipped in with seven points, D.J. Shelton with six and Dexter Kernich-Drew with four.

  • A night of numerous highlights featured none more electrifying than an alley-oop courtesy of Lacy and Shelton that came with WSU trailing 48-41 midway through the second half. WSU capitalized on a rare Olynyk turnover when Lacy lofted a gorgeous pass towards the rim. Shelton's finish didn't disappoint, and his thunderous dunk reenergized the Cougars when it seemed the game was slipping away.

  • The Cougars shot just 11-for-18 from the free throw line while Gonzaga knocked down just eight-of-15 attempts. The silver lining: Lacy and Motum went a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe in the final two-and-a-half minutes.

  • WSU shot 45 percent from the field while the Zags netted nearly a 51 percent mark. Dexter Kernich-Drew held Pangos to 2-of-12 shooting with vicious defense before the point guard finally came through in the final moments.

  • Will DiIorio left the game in the second half with a left ankle injury after he came down awkwardly on a Gonzaga player. The severity of his injury was unknown at press time but DiIorio did not appear to be able to put any weight on it.
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