LAHAINA – Gonzaga found trouble in paradise, in the form of fouls, lack of rebounding, errant 3-point shooting and generally getting beat to most 50-50 balls.
Dayton erased a 16-point first half deficit, built a nine-point lead late and then hung to defeat the 11th-ranked Bulldogs 84-79 in the opening round of the EA Sports Maui Invitational in front of 2,400 Monday at the Lahaina Civic Center.
Gonzaga (4-1) will face Chaminade (2-1), which lost to Baylor 93-77, today at 1:30. The Flyers (5-0) move into the semifinals against Baylor tonight.
Kevin Pangos scored 27 points, Sam Dower Jr. added 18 and Gary Bell Jr. had all 12 of his points in the second half. Pangos, Dower and Przemek Karnowski fouled out late in the second half, leaving Gonzaga with several odd combinations on the floor, including 6-foot-6 Drew Barham and 6-5 Kyle Dranginis at center and power forward.
Dayton took full advantage, even when GU’s bigs were in the game, by piling up 18 offensive rebounds and a 40-29 edge overall.
“We knew we were going to be in a dogfight after watching tape on them and we were,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “It’s been a while, at least since I’ve been coach, giving up 18 offensive rebounds. They just handed it to us on the glass, and those (rebounds) led to a lot of extra possessions.”
Or, as Dower put it, “They wanted the rebounds more I guess.”
Gonzaga was in command in the first half, pounded the undersized Flyers inside with Dower and Karnowski. GU built a 34-18 lead, but Dayton started chipping away at the deficit. Jordan Sibert’s 3-pointer – Dayton’s first of the game – and Dyshawn Pierre’s three-point play helped Dayton pull within 37-28 at half.
The Flyers kept the momentum rolling in the second half, scoring the first seven points. At one point, Dayton outscored GU 54-29 spanning both halves to take a 72-63 advantage.
“I got in foul trouble and I kind of played tentatively on defense,” Dower said. “I had a couple of stupid fouls early.”
“They got a lot of great looks, again off offensive rebounds and that’s a good time to shoot a 3,” Few said. “We did a good job of eliminating the looks from 3 in the first half. In the second half, they got back to attacking.”
Gonzaga was on its heels defensively, giving up perimeter 3s, drives to the bucket and if the Flyers missed they simply tracked down the rebound.
“Our guys weren’t panicked at all at halftime,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “We could have been down 16-17 at half and we got it down to 9. That kind of changed our perspective. Once we got off to a good start at the first four-minute timeout, you could just tell we were going to be in it until the end.”
Gonzaga mounted a comeback after its frontcourt players fouled out. Pangos made a 3-pointer and several hard drives to the basket resulted in trips to the free-throw line. He brought the Zags within 78-75 with 47 seconds left, but GU missed a chance to pull closer after a Pangos steal. Two shots were off target.
Dayton had a couple of late turnovers, but finally sealed the victory by making 6 of 6 free throws, four by Dyshawn Pierre, in the final 22.8 seconds. Kyle Dranginis missed a long 3-pointer in the closing seconds with Gonzaga trailing by 3.
Pangos was kicking himself afterward, forgetting that he had four fouls when he fouled with 22.8 seconds left, but the Zags didn’t have time to be picky at that point facing a three-point deficit.
Sibert led Dayton with 23 points and Pierre added 15 points and nine rebounds. Gonzaga, made just 26.3 percent of its 3-pointers and its bench was outscored 21-9.