Kevin Pangos: ‘We’re A Tough Team To Beat’

After beating Iowa in the Round of 32 on Sunday to reach his first Sweet 16 since 2009, Gonzaga coach Mark Few celebrated with his players in the locker room. But he didn’t just smile and clap hands and pat backs.

No, the 52-year-old Few busted out a handstand.

Has that ever happened before?

“Yeah, a couple times,” Gonzaga senior guard Kevin Pangos said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “He does that with big wins that we have throughout the year. It’s something that no one’s ever really known and he kind of keeps private within the team. But it’s out there now and the world can see it. But it always gets our team pumped. It’s kind of cool to see.”

The Zags, who will face No. 11 UCLA this Friday at 7:15 p.m. ET, are on the verge of their first Elite Eight since 1999. Gonzaga (34-2) has won 27 of its last 28 games.

“This year’s been great – for myself, injury-free, which has been so nice and I don’t take for granted one bit,” Pangos said. “But it’s also been nice because this team is special. (It’s a) special group of guys that all get along in the locker room (and) love playing together on the court. And for myself, I’m trying to soak it all in. It’s my last year as a collegiate athlete. I’m just trying to enjoy it with a bunch of my buddies and make the most of it. I just want to keep playing as long as I can.”

Pangos, who averaged at least 3.3 assists every year at Gonzaga, became even more of a facilitator this season. He averaged a career-high 4.9 assists to go with 11.8 points – second on the team to Kyle Wiltjer’s 17.1.

“I just love to win and (doing) whatever it takes to win,” said Pangos, who has combined for 34 points, eight assists and just two turnovers through two tournament games. “Some games I’m going to need to score – and I still love taking those big shots. Those are moments that I really enjoy. But if it means that someone else is going to have a better shot and it’s better for the team, then I’m willing to do it. You got to make everyone happy if you’re going to go as far as you can or win as many games as you can.

“So I try to get everyone involved every opportunity I can,” Pangos continued. “And when they’re producing like they are, our big guys and shooters and wings – everyone’s producing. Why would I be selfish and try to take it myself when it’s not for the benefit of the team? We’ve been winning games and that’s all that matters to me.”

While the Zags would love to advance to their first Final Four in school history, they must first get by UCLA – and then potentially No. 1 Duke. Gonzaga, it is worth noting, beat UCLA, 87-74, at Pauley Pavilion on Dec. 13.

The Bruins (22-13) have gotten much better since then. So have the Zags.

“I think we’re a lot different,” Pangos said. “I think we learned about ourselves through the ups and downs of the season, and I think we’re just really hungry. We know that game that we played early in the year was great for us; we got the win. But it means nothing at this time of year. It’s a different day. Both teams are different. It’s a different stage. We just have to come with the right approach and keep playing as a team like we do. Because when we’re playing together and defending together, we’re a tough team to beat – because we have so many weapons.”

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