Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014
Sports

Gone-zaga: No. 1 team shocked by Wichita State

Published:
SALT LAKE CITY -

The No. 1 got taken down by a bunch of threes.

Gonzaga is out of the NCAA tournament thanks to Wichita State, a No. 9 seed that made five straight shots from behind the arc Saturday for a 76-70 victory that sent the West Region’s top seed — and the nation’s No. 1 team during the regular season — back home.

“This is incredible for our team,” said freshman guard Ron Baker, who hit four of the Shockers’ season-high 14 three-pointers.

The Shockers (28-6) one-upped the Zags (32-3) on the NCAA tournament stage and advanced to the Round of 16 for the first time since 2006. They are headed to Los Angeles to face the winner of Sunday’s game between La Salle and Ole Miss.

Gonzaga became the first top seed to be eliminated. The Zags survived a scare in the second round against Southern but couldn’t hold up against a Shockers team whose motto is “play angry.”

Call it the Marshall plan, by Shockers coach Gregg Marshall.

He pulled his team aside after Gonzaga had made its big second-half run to take an eight-point lead.

“You know what I asked them? On Oct. 15, down eight with eight minutes to go, would you take it for the right to go to Los Angeles in the Sweet 16?” Marshall asked. “And they did it from there.”

Cleanthony Early and Baker scored 16 points apiece, freshman Fred VanVleet added 13, Carl Hall had 10 and Tekele Cotton eight.

While Gonzaga held the top spot in the AP Top 25 over the final weeks of the season, skeptics thought of the Bulldogs as a soft No. 1 seed that benefited from a relatively easy schedule in the West Coast Conference.

That’s not to say the Bulldogs didn’t fight, with Kelly Olynyk scoring 26 points to lead Gonzaga, and Kevin Pangos adding 19.

Gonzaga trailed by as many as 13 in the first half, was down 36-31 at the break, but came on strong early in the second half.

Wichita State was not intimidated.

They showed their grit after Gonzaga’s 12-0 run gave the Bulldogs a 49-41 lead with 11:53 left. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Kevin Pangos and Michael Hart started it, Olynyk hit a jumper then a pair of free throws, and Pangos capped it with a steal and fast-break layup.

But Wichita State outscored the Zags 35-21 from there.

The string of five straight threes began when Tekele Cotton spotted up with 6:05 remaining and hit a shot that cut Wichita State’s seven-point deficit to four.

It ended at the 1:28 mark when VanVleet, dribbling the ball between his legs, nearly lost it, but gathered himself and threw one up with 1 second left on the shot clock.

“I was just disappointed that with 1 second left that we even let him get a three off,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “That was a mental error on our part.”

The Shockers, who made just 2 of 20 3-pointers in their 18-point win over Pitt on Thursday, shot 50 percent from beyond the arc and 50 percent overall.

“They deserve a ton of credit,” Few said. “It’s the first time in a while someone made 50 percent on us, and to bang in 14 threes is pretty amazing.”

It was another sudden end to an amazing ride for Gonzaga. The Bulldogs were playing in their 15th straight NCAA tournament but have not advanced past the Round of 16 since 1999.

Gonzaga’s 39-30 rebounding edge couldn’t make up for 36 percent shooting.

Six different Wichita State players hit threes in the opening 20 minutes as the Shockers made 7 of 15 in the first half. They finished 14 of 28 overall.

“Man, it means a lot,” Shockers senior forward Carl Hall said. “It means a lot to this program and our fans deserve this.”

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