If you watched Gonzaga’s first game of the tournament, like me, you might have realized you were holding your breath for the last 5 minutes of the game … not something we are used to doing.
There was a collective sigh of relief when the final buzzer sounded and the Zags held on to play another game.
A sigh that could be heard all the way to Spokane. So how did our Zags come so close to tournament elimination? I think there is one key word: tempo.
I’m sure Southern’s plan was to control the tempo, but also to shoot well from the field and drive down Gonzaga’s field goal percentage. They delivered on all three. Southern slowed Gonzaga down into more of a half-court game and didn’t allow GU to get the tempo in its favor.
Southern only shot 40 percent from the field but 43 percent from 3 on 10 of 23 attempts. This effective field-goal percentage, near 50 percent, is something Gonzaga opponents have not been able to do all year long.
Southern drove down Gonzaga’s field-goal percentage to 42 percent overall, one of GU’s worse shooting nights of the year.
Southern played much better than anyone of us anticipated. They played great. They put Zag fans on the edge of their seats.
But all of this being said, Gonzaga did what they needed to do … (sigh of relief) … survive and advance.
Highlight stretch of game: David Stockton sparking the Zags in the first half with some defensive deflections and then assisting on a pass to Gary Bell, scoring a tough transition layup and then making a pass (that only three people in the building could make) to Kelly Olynyk for a layup. (The other two people being his dad, John, and yours truly!) Stockton, to me, was the key factor in the game. He picked up the pace, brought energy to the team, and got the crowd on its feet. It was a new and interesting twist that I had never seen with Gonzaga and the crowd in the NCAA tournament today. With a little under 5 minutes the crowd was pro-Southern.