Devastation. Anger. Doubt. Disbelief. Zag fans are certainly feeling these emotions, among others, after the Bulldogs’ crushing loss to Wichita State – I know I do.
Like the ’02, ’04 and ’06 Gonzaga teams, this year’s edition of the Zags seemed destined to be the first team to reach the Final Four.
Zag Nation will inevitably look to Gary Bell’s ankle injury, the missed free throws, and unconverted second-chance opportunities, among other things, as the reasons the Bulldogs lost. The reality is Gonzaga didn’t give the game away – Wichita State won it because of their shot-making, defensive effort and toughness.
After shooting 2 for 20 from the 3-point line against Pittsburgh, the Shockers made 14 of 28 versus the Bulldogs, including seven straight late. Going into the game, the Zags converted 50.1 percent of their field goals, good for third nationally, but Wichita State’s defense held the Zags to 35.6 percent from the field. Despite an impressive comeback from Gonzaga in the second half, leading 49-41 with 11:53 remaining in the game, Wichita State’s toughness showed as they found a way to cut the lead and win the game.
I’ll tell you another emotion I feel – pride. As an alumnus and former player, few other teams have represented Gonzaga as well both on and off the floor. I’m proud they were the first team to win 30 games, reach No. 1 in the national rankings and earn a No. 1 seed. I’m proud to have watched two all-timers in Mike Hart and Elias Harris, witnessed Kelly Olynyk’s All-American season, and seen Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell’s growth and toughness all year. That pride, above all else, is what I feel most.