Tahlequah Daily Press

March 24, 2013

Shock 'em: Wichita State ousts No. 1 Gonzaga

NCAA tournament — East and South Region roundups


Associated Press

— SALT LAKE CITY — The No. 1 got taken down by a bunch of 3s.

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 3-pointers. "We came together down the stretch and pulled the upset off. This feeling is unimaginable."

Now Wichita State doesn't have to try and emulate fellow mid-major Gonzaga any more.

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, giving all the Zags' doubters an I-told-you-so moment. 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 50-year-old 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.

Baker called it the epitome of team.

While Baker hasn't been this deep in the tournament before, the Shockers are no stranger to the NCAAs, with Saturday's win evening their record at 10-10. They earned a trip to the Final Four in 1965, the regional finals three times and most recently made it to the Round of 16 in 2006 before losing to George Mason.

Marshall also led Winthrop to seven NCAA tournament appearances during his nine seasons there.

Still, Wichita State hadn't fared so well against top-ranked teams. The last time they played one, in 1967, they lost by 34. That was UCLA, a team that went on to win its fourth of 10 titles during the Wooden era.

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 while other top contenders were getting banged around in the power conferences.

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 never quit," Marshall said. "You know we got the big lead, Gonzaga makes a great run as a No. 1 team in the country would, and these guys dig down."

Shockers, for sure.

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 3s 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. It went in, the Shockers were ahead 70-65 and the rest of the game was a free-throw-shooting contest.

"I was just disappointed that with 1 second left that we even let him get a 3 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 3s (overall) 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.

"I think we just ... let our guard down a little bit," Hart said. "That was key. We defended so well at start of the second half, then we just lost some guys. You can't do that when guys get it going. You gotta get a hand up and stay close to your assignments. We kinda lost it there a few possessions and that really hurt us."

While the Zags left disappointed, the Shockers stayed fairly low key in victory.

At one point, Early and teammate Chadrack Lufile jumped up and body slammed each other and the Shockers huddled at midcourt for a long team hug. But largely, Wichita State acted like a team that's been there before.

"We play together, we stick to our goals, we're good teammates," Baker said. He hardly looked fazed.

The game was physical as expected, with Olynyk getting a forearm across his neck in the first half but continuing to go hard at the basket.

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

Six different Wichita State players hit 3s in the opening 20 minutes as the Shockers made 7 of 15 from beyond the arc 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."

EAST REGIONAL



MARQUETTE 74, BUTLER 72


LEXINGTON, Ky. — Vander Blue scored 19 second-half points to rally third-seeded Marquette out of another hole, and the Golden Eagles beat No. 6 Butler to reach the round of 16.

Like November's first meeting between the teams at the Maui Invitational, won 72-71 by Butler on Rotnei Clarke's buzzer-beating 3-pointer, this was a back-and-forth, high-intensity affair that came down to the final shot.

Only this time, Butler missed.

Marquette (25-8) will meet the winner of Sunday's game between Illinois and Miami on Thursday in the regional semifinals in Washington, D.C.

Blue, who made a last-second layup to beat Davidson in Marquette's first tournament game, scored 29 points.

Clarke's 24 points led Butler (28-9).

After Jamil Wilson's two free throws made it 71-69, Davante Gardner deflected Clarke's pass intended for Kellen Dunham underneath and then made the first of three late free throws for a 74-70 lead with 4.7 seconds left.

After Wilson's goaltend on what would have been a layup by Andrew Smith cut the lead to two 2 seconds later, Blue almost became the goat by throwing away the inbound pass intended for Wilson with 2.9 seconds left.

The Bulldogs, who seem to win every close game this time of year, couldn't get a good last look. Smith took an off-balance 3 from up top that was way off, slamming into the backboard and setting off another Marquette celebration.



SYRACUSE 66, CALIFORNIA 60

SAN JOSE, Calif. — C.J. Fair scored 18 points, James Southerland added 14 and fourth-seeded Syracuse survived a second-half drought of more than 12 minutes without a field goal to beat No. 12 seed California.

The Orange (28-9) frustrated California with their zone defense to overcome a dismal shooting night when they made just 39 percent of their shots and missed 15 of 41 free throws.

But it proved to be enough to send Syracuse to Washington, D.C., for the regional semifinals, where the Orange will take on the winner of Sunday's game between top-seeded Indiana and Temple on Thursday.

Richard Solomon scored 22 points for the Golden Bears (21-12), who were trying to make it to the round of 16 for the first time in 16 years and just the third time since 1960.



SOUTH REGIONAL



MICHIGAN 78, VCU 53


AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Mitch McGary had 21 points and 14 rebounds, and fourth-seeded Michigan breezed through Virginia Commonwealth's vaunted pressure with a clinical performance and advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since 1994.

VCU (27-9) was relentless in a 46-point rout of Akron on Thursday night, but the Rams met their match against Michigan's cool-headed backcourt. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. rarely looked rattled against VCU, and although Michigan (28-7) committed 12 turnovers, the Rams couldn't turn many of them into quick scoring opportunities.

McGary, a 6-foot-10 freshman, set season highs in scoring and rebounding.

The 71-point swing by VCU — from a 46-point win to a 25-point loss — was the largest in NCAA tournament history, according to STATS. In 1968, Houston beat Texas Christian 103-68 then lost to UCLA 101-69 for a 67-point swing.

The Wolverines will play the winner of Sunday's game between Kansas and North Carolina in Arlington, Texas.