Analysis: Zach Norvell’s huge 3 helps Gonzaga survive major scare from UNC Greensboro

Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell Jr. hits a big shot late in the game to put the Zags ahead of UNC Greensboro, Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Zach Norvell Jr. (23) reacts after hitting a clutch three point shot during the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Zach Norvell Jr. (23) reacts after hitting a clutch three pointer to put Gonzaga ahead late in the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Johnthan Williams slams against UNC Greensboro, Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Killian Tillie fouls UNC Greensboro guard Francis Alonso, Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams rips a rebound away UNC Greensboro guard Isaiah Miller (24), Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Killian Tillie puts a stop on UNC Greensboro forward Jordy Kuiper (32), Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell Jr. hits a 3-point shot over UNC Greensboro guard Francis Alonso, Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins gets pressure from UNC Greensboro guards Demetrius Troy and Francis Alonso, Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
A young Gonzaga fan cheers during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Johnathan Williams (3) fights for a loose ball against UNCG during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Silas Melson (0) looks for an open teammate during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Johnathan Williams (3) battles UNCG at the rim during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Killian Tillie (33) grabs a rebound over UNC-Greensboro Spartans forward Kyrin Galloway (14) during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Silas Melson (0) rebounds a missed dunk by UNC-Greensboro Spartans forward James Dickey (21) during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Johnathan Williams (3) guards UNC-Greensboro Spartans forward Marvin Smith (1) during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Silas Melson (0) drives the ball past UNCG as head coach Wes Miller reacts during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Josh Perkins (13) vies for a loose ball during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
GU fans cheer for their team during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Johnathan Williams (3) shoots over UNCG during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Zach Norvell Jr. (23) moves the ball past UNCG during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
UNCG's mascot Spiro dances with Gonzaga mascot Spike the Bulldog during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
UNC-Greensboro Spartans head coach Wes Miller during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Rui Hachimura (21) battles UNC-Greensboro Spartans forward Jordy Kuiper (32) at the rim during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Zach Norvell Jr. (23) reaches for the ball against UNC-Greensboro Spartans forward James Dickey (21) during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Zach Norvell Jr. (23) drives to the hoop during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Josh Perkins (13) moves the ball past UNC-Greensboro Spartans guard Demetrius Troy (11) and during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell Jr. tries to stop UNC Greensboro forward from hits a big shot late in the game, Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins ties the game in the last minute against UNC Greensboro, Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell Jr. battles UNC Greensboro forward for an inbounds pass, Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Josh Perkins (13) reacts after Gonzaga took the lead against UNCG during the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Rui Hachimura (21) gets tied up UNCG during the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams pressures UNC Greensboro guard Francis Alonso, Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
UNC Greensboro guard Demetrius Troy celebrates basket by teammate Francis Alonso late in the game against Gonzaga, Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins crashes to the court as UNC Greensboro forward James Dickey collects a loose ball, Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga players Killian Tillie, Silas Melson and Zach Norvell Jr., left to right, celebrate Melson taking a charge against UNC Greensboro’s Demetrius Troy late in Thursday’s game Taco Bell Arena in Boise. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins and forward Rui Hachimura celebrate late in the game against UNC Greensboro, Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Zach Norvell Jr. (23) fights for the ball against UNCD during the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. T (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Johnathan Williams (3) dunks against UNCG during the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Chris Webber and Brian Anderson broad the Gonzaga/UNC Greensboro on TNT, Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Josh Perkins (13) shoots against UNCG during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Josh Perkins (13) moves the ball against UNC-Greensboro Spartans guard Malik Massey (2) during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Josh Perkins (13) moves the ball against UNC-Greensboro Spartans guard Malik Massey (2) during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Johnathan Williams (3) drives against UNCG during the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Josh Perkins (13) pauses between plays during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs head coach Mark Few watches his team as the clock runs down during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Johnathan Williams (3) rebounds the ball during the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Josh Perkins drives the ball against UNCG during the first half on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
UNC-Greensboro Spartans guard Francis Alonso (10) during the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
UNC Greensboro's bench reacts as they take the lead against Gonzaga during the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
UNC-Greensboro Spartans guard Francis Alonso (10) during the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Johnathan Williams (3) battles UNC-Greensboro Spartans forward James Dickey (21) at the rim during the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams and Zach Norvell battle UNC Greensboro Marvin Smith, Jordy Kuiper and James Dickey for a loose ball, Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Rui Hachimura (21) saves a ball from flying out of bounds and bounces it off of UNC-Greensboro Spartans forward Jordy Kuiper (32) during the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
UNC-Greensboro Spartans guard Demetrius Troy (11) drives against Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Corey Kispert (24) during the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams beats UNC Greensboro forward Jordy Kuiper on the baseline to the basket, Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga fans cheer on the Zags against UNC Greensboro, Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins launches a shot over UNC Greensboros Jordy Kuiper and Demetrius Troy, Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
UNC-Greensboro Spartans forward James Dickey (21) dunks against Gonzaga during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Rui Hachimura (21) reacts after his team narrowly escaped UNCG during the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs head coach Mark Few congratulates UNCG after second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Josh Perkins (13) embraces Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Jack Beach (2) after they defeated UNC Greensboro during the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Zach Norvell Jr. (23) celebrates with teammates after they narrowly escaped UNCD in the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Killian Tillie (33) heads to the locker room after posting two points, four rebounds and 2 assists, against UNCG during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth embraces guard Zach Norvell Jr. after Thursday’s win over UNC Greensboro. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs head coach Mark Few reacts after narrowly escaping UNCG during the second half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga won the game 68-64. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga prepares to face UNC during the first half of the first round of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

BOISE – This went way beyond just survive and advance.

This ventured into an absolutely uncomfortable area of frazzled nerves, bricked free throws and a heavy underdog poised to mess up a ton of brackets, particularly those in the Inland Northwest.

Just when it appeared plucky 13th-seeded UNC Greensboro was going to spring a huge upset, Zach Norvell Jr. remembered he’s Zach Norvell Jr.

Gonzaga’s redshirt freshman wing shook off a rough shooting night as he has done so many times this season, burying a 3-pointer that pushed the fourth-seeded Zags past the Spartans 68-64 Thursday at Taco Bell Arena.

Norvell’s 3-pointer – he was 1 of 7 from distance to that point – gave Gonzaga a 67-64 lead with 20.8 seconds left.

“Just toughness, having the courage and confidence to do it,” said Norvell, who made a slight adjustment to create space for the shot. “The entire game they were getting over ball screens pretty hard and hedging, I knew if I gave a little jab it would free me up.”

Did he know it was going in when it left his hand? Teammate Corey Kispert standing nearby heard the question and nudged Norvell, “Don’t lie.”

Only then did Norvell hesitate, taking a split second before saying, “Yes, every shot, other than a couple, felt really good.”

Most of the second half had an ominous feel for the Zags (31-4), who advance to face fifth-seeded Ohio State in Saturday’s second round. The Buckeyes outlasted South Dakota State 81-73.

“I’m up here shaking, still sweating,” Perkins said of the madcap finish. “I’m just glad I’m up here with this group of guys.”

Gonzaga couldn’t get away from the Spartans, even after building a 12-point lead early in the second half and a nine-point edge with 8:54 remaining.

The Zags rarely turned the ball over against UNCG’s 1-2-2 press, but they still didn’t find many easy buckets. They seemed to settle in, nailing 11 of their first 18 second-half shots, before going cold from the perimeter.

Senior forward Johnathan Williams, who finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Perkins, who had 16 points, were the only reliable weapons for a majority of the contest.

“Their press helped them a lot because it slowed down our tempo,” guard Silas Melson said. “We like to get up and down and we weren’t able to do that pretty much for the entirety of the game.”

UNCG (27-8), known for its 3-point attack, missed all 13 long-distance attempts in the first half. The Spartans had a bit more success in the second half (3 of 9), but they seized momentum when guards Francis Alonso and Demetrius Troy punished the Zags with dribble penetration and artistic floaters, runners and flip shots.

“We get 22 (3-point) looks, I’d venture to guess 18 were pretty good looks for us,” Spartans coach Wes Miller said. “But I do think they were really extending on us and it allowed our guys to get downhill. We thought we could drive it.”

Each basket in the lane inspired more belief in the Spartans and turned some impartial fans among a pro-GU crowd into UNCG backers. UNCG mixed in a half-court zone defense that bugged the Zags, who couldn’t convert beyond the 3-point arc.

Troy’s twisting bank shot over Killian Tillie pulled the Spartans even at 62 and Jordy Kuiper’s tip-in gave them a two-point lead, their first since it was 13-12 midway through the first half.

Perkins made the game’s second-biggest shot, an 18-foot jumper that squared it at 64 with 53 seconds remaining. Norvell followed with the biggest shot of the season so far and it was nearly matched by UNCG forward Marvin Smith’s 3-point attempt that rattled in and out.

After a pair of missed free throws by Rui Hachimura – the Zags were just 13 of 25 at the stripe – Norvell hit 1 of 2 to seal the victory.

Gonzaga finally corralled Alonso, who scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half, in the closing 40 seconds. The junior guard forced a shot that was way off target and was called for a foul for pushing Melson.

“We just hung with it, hung with it,” GU coach Mark Few said. “We made one more play than they did. We’re fortunate to advance.”