SPOKANE, Wash. — With the exception of the occasional whistle and directives offered by its coaches, the Gonzaga men’s basketball team has spent the last few weeks practicing in the relative silence of the McCarthey Athletic Center. That all changed Saturday, when the Bulldogs made their 2013-14 debut in front of a spirited crowd during Kraziness in the Kennel.
Playing in game-like conditions for the first time, the Blue squad, led by newcomers Kyle Wiltjer and Gerard Coleman, topped the Red team 32-20 during the 15-minute scrimmage.
“It’s great for our fans, and not just our season-ticket holders,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of the event. “It’s open for everybody to get in here and it gives them a chance to feel the atmosphere and the energy of The Kennel and see our guys live. I love it because of that — it’s open to everybody.”
Wiltjer, a transfer from Kentucky who will redshirt this season, tallied a scrimmage-high 11 points, nearly half of which came from a 5-for-5 effort at the foul line. Coleman, another transfer, added seven points and four rebounds while providing a glimpse of his athleticism with a few drives to the rim.
“There were some good things and some bad,” Few said. “We didn’t probably shoot it as good as we’re capable of shooting it, at least some of the guys didn’t. We probably turned the ball over too much, especially some of the big guys, but that’s to be expected.”
The scrimmage was tight for the first seven minutes, with the teams exchanging the lead four times. The Blue squad pulled ahead for good, though, when Gary Bell Jr. drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing with 7:48 left to give his club a 14-11 advantage. That cushion eventually swelled to as much as 14 following another triple from Bell inside the final minute. Bell, a junior from Kent, Wash., finished with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting.
Kevin Pangos, who usually shares the backcourt with Bell, did his best to keep the Red team close. The junior guard recorded 10 points, including a pair of early 3-pointers, to go with four rebounds, three assists and a steal. Even though his squad suffered the loss, he enjoyed finally playing in front of a crowd.
“It’s awesome because our fans are so supportive,” Pangos said. “An event like this — they pack the place, the Kennel Club is just screaming — it was fun.”
Besides besting Pangos in the scrimmage, Bell also topped him in the 3-point shooting contest, although, Pangos may file a protest. After drilling 13-of-15 attempts in the opening round, Pangos drained another 10 in the finals against Bell, who appeared to make only nine. But Bell, perhaps receiving a generous birthday present, was named the winner.
“I heard people saying, ‘seven, eight, nine,’ and I got 10,” Pangos said. “So there’s no way he beat me. But it’s his birthday, so congratulations, Gary.”
Another shooting contest involving some former Gonzaga greats also highlighted Kraziness in the Kennel. David Pendergraft, Cory Violette, Blake Stepp and Dan Dickau all participated in a competition where teams of three were required to make six shots, all of varying difficulty, in two minutes. Stepp’s team defeated Dickau’s group in the finals.
The current Zags return to action Friday, Oct. 25, when they host Simon Fraser University, an NCAA Division II school from British Columbia, in an exhibition game. The Bulldogs will officially open their season Saturday, Nov. 9, when they host Bryant University.
“I’m pumped,” Pangos said. “I can’t wait to play our first game. We got to start a little bit earlier this year, so we are all ready to play against someone other than ourselves.”