Salt Lake City, UT (Sports Network) - Hopefully Gonzaga heard the wake-up call
loud and clear on Thursday afternoon, and the Bulldogs are better prepared
when they take the floor at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday against the
Wichita State Shockers in the third round of the West Regional of the 2013
Not only is Gonzaga the top seed in the region and owners of the most
victories in the nation at the moment with 32, the squad is also the top-
ranked team in the country according to the latest Associated Press poll, but
you would have never been able to tell all that when the Zags hit the floor
for their first game of the tournament versus Southern on Thursday.
The Bulldogs are a team that ran the table in the West Coast Conference during
the regular season and then picked up yet another conference tournament title
in a convincing win against Saint Mary's, and still the critics were wondering
if Gonzaga could be a legitimate power given the schedule it has played this
season. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they left those skeptics with even
more questions on Thursday when they needed a late 8-2 run to close against
16th-seeded Southern in order to grab the uninspired 64-58 victory.
As a result, Gonzaga improved to 18-15 in this tournament all-time.
As for the Shockers, they played second fiddle to Creighton in the Missouri
Valley Conference in 2012-13, losing to the Bluejays twice this month,
including the MVC Tournament title game almost two weeks ago. However, because
WSU was competing against a top-flight team like Creighton during the regular
season, the ninth-seeded squad was not scared off by the prospect of taking on
eighth-seeded Pittsburgh on Thursday. In fact, the Shockers went on the attack
versus the 20th-ranked team in the nation and came up with a somewhat
unexpected 73-55 triumph.
With the victory the Shockers, now 2-1 in the all-time series versus the
Panthers, are a game under .500 in the NCAA Tournament at 9-10.
According to Gonzaga sources, the Shockers won the only previous meeting
between the programs, a 54-53 overtime affair in Kansas back in 1995 as part
of the Cessna Classic.
The winner of this game advances to the round of 16 next week against an
opponent to be determined.
The first half of the tournament opener for the Shockers was far from pretty,
as they shot just 28.6 percent from the floor and made only one of their 14
attempts beyond the arc, but the good news was that Pittsburgh was held to
only seven made field goals and missed all seven chances out on the perimeter,
and trailed by five at the break as a result.
In the second half, WSU again struggled from long range (1-of-6), but was
otherwise a solid 52.4 percent from the field and also feasted at the free-
throw line (24-of-29) in order to claim the win against the Panthers. For the
game, the Shockers connected on a staggering 33-of-41 at the charity stripe,
more than doubling the effort by the Panthers (16-of-20).
Malcolm Armstead converted all nine of his chances at the line as he finished
with 22 points, followed by Cleanthony Early with 21 points and seven boards
off the bench, although he missed all six of his 3-point tries. Carl Hall
tacked on 11 points for the Shockers, a team which is now outscoring the
competition by nine points per outing.
Early, who has been a spark off the bench, leads the way with 13.8 ppg and is
second on the glass with 5.2 rpg, trailing only Hall (12.7 ppg) who is
responsible for 7.1 rpg. Starting center Ehimen Orukpe, doesn't do much as far
as scoring is concerned (2.8 ppg), but in his limited time on the floor he is
good for 4.5 rpg and is leading the program with 54 blocked shots.
The Bulldogs may have thought they were going to have an easy time of it
against Southern when they opened on a 7-0 run, but that's how the meeting
with the Jags should have played out in the second round of the tourney.
Fortunately, Gonzaga got its act together late and prevailed by six.
Kelly Olynyk generated 21 points and 10 rebounds for the favorites, followed
by Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell with 16 and 11 points, respectively. Providing a
spark off the bench was David Stockton with his game-high seven assists, doing
more for his teammates than himself just like his father (John) did at Gonzaga
all those years ago.
Olynyk played 16 minutes in the first half on Thursday, but was almost a non-
factor with just four points and that's not good enough for the top player in
the West Coast Conference, and someone who is considered one of the premier
college players in the nation. Averaging 17.6 ppg and 7.3 rpg, Olynyk needs to
establish himself early against Wichita State in order to ensure the Bulldogs
are not scratching to get by this time around.
The Sports Network