The Bulldogs led by as many as 20 second-half points until Stephen Holt, who poured-in a team-high 23 points, helped pull Saint Mary's within one point late in the latest installment of one of the best rivalries on the West Coast.
Forward Kellyt Olynyk led all scorers with 31 points as Gonzaga improved to 16-1 overall and 3-0 in the West Coast Conference). Saint Mary's fell to 12-4 overall and 1-1 in league play.
The Gaels host longtime Bay Area rival San Francisco Saturday night in an 8 p.m. tipoff at McKeon Pavilion. Tickets are available by calling the SMC Athletic Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx or by visiting the tickets link on SMCGaels.com.
After a flurry of shots trimmed Gonzaga's advantage to three at one point, Olynyk's layup put the Bulldogs ahead 76-69 with 3:32 left.
Matthew Dellavedova's 3-pointer cut Gonzaga's lead to 79-76 with 1:15 to go. Olynyk could not score on the other end, but Gonzaga got the ball back on a tie up with 49 seconds left.
Pangos missed with 26 seconds left and Dellavedova was fouled on the other end, making both to cut Gonzaga's lead to 79-78 with 15 seconds left.
Olynyk was fouled on the inbounds play and sank both free throws for an 81-78 lead.
Dellavedova missed a long 3-point attempt with 6.9 seconds left, and the Gaels were forced to foul. Pangos hit two free throws to seal it.
"He has to make shots,'' Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "No excuses. ... He has to play better than that if we are going to win.''
In the first half, Saint Mary's made only one of its first nine shots while falling behind 9-2. The Gaels fought back to trail by five points, but an 8-2 run gave the Bulldogs a 35-24 lead.
Dellavedova sank a 3-pointer, but after that Saint Mary's made only one field goal in the final 5 minutes of the first half and Gonzaga closed with an 11-1 run to take a 46-28 halftime lead. Olynyk had 17 first-half points (on 8-of-10 shooting) for Gonzaga, which shot 58 percent while holding the Gaels to 31 percent (9 of 29).
"I wasn't very pleased with our first half,'' Bennett said. "I didn't think our bigs competed very well."
Last season, the Gaels beat the Bulldogs to capture both the WCC regular season and tournament titles. The Gaels had won four of their previous seven games against Gonzaga.
The two teams are scheduled for a Valentine's Day rematch in front of a national ESPN2 television audience from McKeon Pavilion. A limited number of tickets remain.