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En route back home – the Zags chartered last night and probably arrived in the early morning hours Pacific time – so we’ll put together the last day-after post of the season.
Gonzaga’s season ended in stunning fashion Saturday. The Bulldogs had climbed out of a 13-point deficit and had an 8-point lead in the second half and all of the momentum. Then Wichita State, which entered the game as a pedestrian 33-percent shooting team from 3-point land, made everything it looked at, including seven 3s in a row at one point.
The Shockers, getting contributions from unlikely sources – forward Jake White hadn’t made a 3 since Dec. 30th and was 2 of 25 from distance this season when he buried one to give WSU a 29-19 lead; Ron Baker, 31 percent on the season, went 4 of 6; Cleanthony Early, 30 percent on the season, made 4 of 7 – an sprinted past Gonzaga, turning a 7-point deficit into a 4-point lead in 3 minutes and 40 seconds.
That fast, GU’s season was over. The Bulldogs had bumped their heads again on the NCAA ceiling, which the Zags and their fans no doubt think should be higher than their exits in the round of 32 the last four seasons.
Read on for more.
Gonzaga's historic season came to an unfulfilling conclusion Saturday when No. 9 Wichita State handed the top-ranked and top-seeded Bulldogs a 76-70 loss in the round of 32.
The Shockers did it by making 14 of 28 3-pointers — two nights after hitting 2 of 20 — and riding the contributions of unsung players Fred VanVleet (13 points) and Ron Baker (16 points, four 3s). Gonzaga had a 58-51 lead with 6:30 left, but the Shockers scored on eight consecutive possessions to pull off the upset.
And with that, Gonzaga's storybook season (32 wins, first No. 1 ranking and first No. 1 NCAA Tournament seeding) came to an abrupt ending. My game story here and S-R photos here, and an unedited notebook is below.
UPDATE: Here's John Blanchette's column.
Good evening again from Salt Lake City.
Little did I know that when Liza Minnelli sang "I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps," she would be singing about me. On this trip to New York at least. The never-sleep part. So, though it's just 5 a.m. West Coast time, we have our morning-after post ready for you.
After that debacle, I wanted to get out of Madison Square Garden, out of New York, really, as fast as I could. But I think the Washington State fans beat me to the phone, because Wednesday's flights to Seattle, crowded but still with seats earlier in the day, were filled by the time I called. More than likely because I had to wait until it was final. The fans probably called when it was over, or right after halftime, whichever came first. For more on the game, read on.
Quick halftime post. We'll just recount each of Washington State's baskets. There was a Reggie Moore jumper (his only bucket), a Klay Thompson (his only bucket to go with three fouls), four jumpers from Faisal Aden (he has a team-high eight points), a DeAngelo Casto post move (his only bucket). Marcus Capers dunk (his only bucket) and a Dre Winston reverse layup (his only bucket). Add in a Moore free throw and you have 19 points, a season-low for a first half. Wichita reserve Garrett Stultz, an ungainly looking 7-foot junior, has 18 himself – along with seven rebounds. Wichita is shooting 48.3 percent, WSU 33.3. The Shockers have 25 rebounds, WSU has – sit down before you read this – 10. Yes, 10. This is a butt kicking of the first order. We'll be back after we see if the Cougars can make a game off it in the second half.
Well, we're in the world's greatest, or biggest, or most-important, or whatever arena a couple hours before game time, as is our M.O., and guess what? It's just as empty as other arenas. And not nearly as big or impressive as Staples Center. Or about 10 other arenas we've been in. Of course it's a heck of lot older. And broken down. But the building is going through a facelift, so there are areas blocked off and fakes walls in a lot of spots, so there's that. But we digress. As usual. You want basketball talk, don't you? Read on.