Day after Southern
One of the nice things about the NCAAs is we have a few more reporters on hand and there's quite a bit more Gonzaga coverage (on the blog, twitter and in the actual S-R). That volume of material obviously takes away some of the items that find their way into my day-after posts. So, my day-posts after NCAA games will be shorter as we turn our attention to the next matchup. After watching Wichita State take apart Pittsburgh, the Zags might want to do the same. They'll have their hands full on Saturday.
Here's our S-R coverage from last night's 64-58 win over Southern. And one more: Greg Bishop of the New York Times was embedded with Southern for the day leading up to the game (was on hand for bus rides, meetings, meals, etc.) and filed this behind-the-scenes look at the Jags.
Wichita State press conferences are about to begin. Check back later for more.
—I’ve been asked several times in the last 24 hours if Gonzaga overlooked the 16th-seeded Jaguars. My reply: Don’t think so. The Zags didn’t play all that well, but they didn’t appear disinterested or unmotivated.
Southern brought great energy and a knack for hitting shots just when it appeared GU was going to grab the game by the throat. One of those doesn’t go in, GU bumps its lead to 15 and the narrative last night takes a different course. But that didn’t happen, and the credit belongs to the determined Jaguars.
“We didn’t spend one moment on either Wichita State or Pitt,” coach Mark Few said in Thursday’s post-game press conference, when asked about the Gonzaga-Wichita State matchup.
Kelly Olynyk was asked about Wichita State’s bigs and he said they were good, but he couldn't name one because his attention had been on Southern.
—I mentioned in some of the above links that Southern did a nice job defending Gonzaga’s one-two punch of Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk. It wasn’t a ground-breaking approach. The Jaguars simply bogged down the lane with sagging defenders, left one or two of GU’s perimeters alone and tried to entice Gonzaga into taking a lot of 3s. GU has seen the tactic numerous times this season.
Talking with Greg Bishop (see above), he noted that Southern put an emphasis on limiting GU’s high-low attack. And that’s what happened. Olynyk and Harris combined for just 1 assist. Olynyk averages 1.7 assists, Harris 1.6.
But the Jags gave up something along the way. Olynyk was free on pick-and-rolls for most of the second half and racked up 17 of his 21 points. GU shot more 3s than it would like, launching 12 in the first half and 8 more in the second for a total of 20. The Bulldogs obviously want to work inside-out and when they’re at their best, their 3-point attempts dwindle into the low teens or even single figures (i.e., 2 of 9 vs. Saint Mary’s in WCC title game).
Still, Pangos made 4 of 9 from long distance and Bell made 3 of 6. Each had a huge 3 in crunch time, which ultimately pushed GU to a 64-58 win.
STATS OF NOTE
—Points in paint: GU 24-8 (didn’t seem that lopsided, in part because of the next stat below).
—Blocked shots: Southern 8-0.
—Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski didn’t play much (11 combined minutes), but they combined for seven points, four boards and a steal.
—Mike Hart had seven boards in 14 minutes.
Few, on having to double-team Javan Mitchell: “We haven’t had to double a big in a long time. I can’t think of who we’ve had to double. Ray (Giacoletti) and I saw him on tape and thought, ‘this guy is load.’ He was moving our guys down and getting to his hook so then we had to double and that’s where we gave up a couple 3s.”
Harris, on the crowd rooting for the underdog: “A new feeling, I’ve never been in that situation in the tourney where we’re heavily favored and someone else is the underdog. You have to zone out the fans and focus on the game because it’s their team against us, not their fans against us.”
Pangos on the crowd reaction: “It was weird. They made a big run and you can’t really blame neutral fans for getting into it.”
Bell, on the final few minutes: “I wasn’t worried at all. We’ve been in this predicament many times this year. We just had to execute.”