Zags Battle No. 9 Seed Wichita State on Saturday
By Peter Tormey
SALT LAKE CITY – Junior forward Kelly Olynyk scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and sophomore guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell drained some clutch second-half shots to lift No. 1-ranked Gonzaga University to a 64-58 win over scrappy Southern University on Thursday in a second-round game of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. The Bulldogs (32-2), top seed in the West Region, take on No. 9 seed Wichita State on Saturday at 6:40 p.m. (MDT; 5:40 p.m. PDT). The Shockers (27-8) beat No. 8 seed Pittsburgh 73-55 in Thursday’s first game at the EnergySolutions Arena.
Pangos added 16 points and 5 assists for the Zags while Bell added 11 points. The (23-10) Jaguars from Baton Rouge, La., and the Southwestern Athletic Conference, gave Gonzaga all it could handle — swatting away a total of 8 of the Bulldogs’ shots in the game. The Jaguars trailed Gonzaga by only 3 – 34-31 – at halftime.
Southern made 5 of 11 3-pointers in the second half and tied the score twice – at 4:08 and 3:46 left in the game – before a 3-pointer by Bell at 3:21 put Gonzaga ahead for good at 59-56. Southern fought back to within 1 point, 59-58 at 2:28 left on two free-throws by Derick Beltran before Pangos drained a 3-pointer with 1:54 remaining to put the Zags up by 4, 62-58. Pangos added two more free-throws with 15 ticks left on the clock to end scoring. Beltran led the Jaguars with 21 points.
The Jaguars outshot Gonzaga from the floor in the first half 47.8-percent to 41.9-percent, but Gonzaga held Southern to only 30.4 percent from the floor in the second period. The Bulldogs, who shot 41.7 percent from the floor in the second period, finished with a game average of 41.8 percent from the floor and 40 percent from the 3-point line. The Bulldogs and the Jaguars both shot 66.7 percent from the charity stripe for the game with Gonzaga making 10 of 15 and Southern draining 12 of 18. Southern finished with 43.5 percent from the 3-point range.
“All the credit goes to Southern, the players and (Coach) Roman (Banks), for just an amazing job he’s done flipping that program around in such a short time,” Few said. “The more I watch film on them, the more I thought, ‘hey, this could be a real grinder.’ They don’t give you a lot of easy opportunities, and they’re very patient on offense. When they start shooting the ball like they did at multiple spots that they hadn’t necessarily shown all year, and then the crowd gets going and everybody wants to see that first 1 (vs) 16 loss. My guys played well when there wasn’t a whole lot going their way.”
Olynyk said he knew he had to finish plays in the second half, and did — scoring 17 points in the period.
“In the second half I really just had to focus on finishing plays. We got to where we wanted to get. We just didn’t deliver down below. We didn’t finish any baskets. So the second half, we focused on finishing,” Olynyk said. “David Stockton and Kevin (Pangos) got me the ball off the pick and roll, so all I had to do is lay it in. So they really made my second half what it was.”
Few applauded the clutch shooting of Pangos and Bell.
“Can you believe those two are sophomores, too! They’re only sophomores,” Few said. “Kevin is just a clutch player, and you’re sitting there as a coach. You have no problem with whatever decision or shot that he takes or the results of those shots or a free-throw at the end of the game because that kid has been in the gym 365 days a year.”
Bell, he said, has made key shots since his high-school days.
“He’s Big Shot Gary, made a huge shot at OK (Oklahoma) State and made some big shots against Saint Mary’s this year,” Few said. “They’re very heady and very poised, especially for sophomores.”