Gonzaga Headed Back To Sweet Sixteen, Beat Iowa 87-68 - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Gonzaga Headed Back To Sweet Sixteen, Beat Iowa 87-68

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Kevin Pangos and the Zags are finally back in the Sweet Sixteen after a convincing 87-68 win over Iowa. (Photo: ESPN/Twitter) Kevin Pangos and the Zags are finally back in the Sweet Sixteen after a convincing 87-68 win over Iowa. (Photo: ESPN/Twitter)

SEATTLE – No. 2 seed Gonzaga never trailed vs. No. 7 seeded Iowa to beat the Hawkeyes 87-68 at KeyArena and advance to the Zags sixth Sweet Sixteen in school history and its first appearance since 2009.

"There's no better feeling than this because I have been able to experience it and most of the guys in the locker room haven't," Gonzaga senior Kevin Pangos said. "So for us to be able to get past this is definitely a great feeling. But it's not as if we were stressing over what people were talking about. We just wanted to do it selfishly for ourselves and our fan base."

Gonzaga will face UCLA on Friday, March 27, after the 11th-seeded Bruins (22-13) beat 14th-seeded UAB 92-75 on Thursday and held off No. 6 seed SMU in the second round.

The Zags (34-2) started the game off with two 11-4 first-half runs over the Hawkeyes (22-12) to jump out to a 29-19 lead with just under nine minutes left in the first half.

Gonzaga started the game 5-of-6 from downtown with Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis combing for a 10-of-11 clip and 24 of the Zags points first 34 points and seven rebounds.

Iowa went off on a 7-2 run of its own before Gary Bell Jr. made another Bulldogs three to extend the lead back to 13.

The Zags closed out the first half with a 10-3 run, shooting 7-of-10 from three-point range, with a 46-29 lead.

Iowa opened the second half with a 8-2 spurt to cut the Gonzaga lead to 48-37 as the Bulldogs struggled to find a rhythm and the Hawkeyes forcing three turnovers.

Then Kevin Pangos hit a trey to stop the bleeding and push the lead back out to 14 with 15:36 left in the second half.

Iowa continued to push, but couldn't cut the lead to single digits despite Gonzaga cooling off after shooting 62 percent from the floor in the first half, though the Bulldogs did finish shooting 61 percent from the floor in the game.

After the Hawkeyes cut the lead to 11 with 10:25 left in the game, the Zags slugged out a 16-6 run to push out to a 76-58 lead with only 3:09 left in the game.

Sabonis, Pangos and Wiltjer remained hot for the rest of the game to close out the win and set up a meeting with UCLA in Houston. In 2006 UCLA ended the Zags' season in the Sweet Sixteen.

Pangos finished with 16 points, which puts him a tie with Matt Santangelo for fifth on Gonzaga's all-time scoring list with 1,810 points.

Wiltjer added 24 points and seven rebounds and didn't miss a shot until 8:58 left in the game, a three that rattled in and out. Sabonis scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds off the bench. 

"I think I was just in the moment of the game," Sabonis said of his night. "I was getting more confident and also my teammates were doing a great job of finding me open and I was just trying to take advantage of it."

The scoring explosion should help quell the doubters who called out Gonzaga for not finishing the game out with a bigger win over North Dakota State in the second round.

"It's without a doubt the best offensive team I've been associated with," Zags head caoch Mark Few said about his team. "The firepower, the versatility and the ability to share the ball. Lost in all of this, we've taken unbelievable care of the ball all year and that was a big key. Iowa turns ya over and takes those turnovers and turns them into points and I though we did a nice job limiting that tonight too."

But maybe the most important thing is the Zags will be fine dining in Houston when they head to Texas for the Sweet Sixteen.  

"We were going to dinner last night and we past one of my favorite restaurants, Benihana, and we were going to a burger joint. So I was like ‘coach, we should go to Benihana!'" Wiltjer said about his game-time motivation. "And one of our assistants said, ‘hey, if you get the win tonight we'll go to Benihana in Houston.' So, I was extra motivated because now we get to go to Benihana, so I'm hyped."

Highlights in video player above courtesy CBSSports/NCAA.

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