Rushed Reactions: #1 Gonzaga 61, #4 West Virginia 58Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2017
RTC is providing coverage from start to finish of the NCAA Tournament for the next three weeks.
- The Abominable Mountaineers. West Virginia got the game it wanted. A foul-filled first half full of ugly was followed by more of the same in the second half, ultimately resulting in a gnarly 61-58 abomination of a win by Gonzaga that came down to struggling offense as a result of gritty defense. This game notched a total of 51 fouls, 61 free throws, 29 turnovers and only nine made threes, but it was a bomb by Jordan Mathews from the left wing who provided a glimmer of beauty in a visual disaster. And although Gonzaga clearly did not prefer to play such a physical, rough-and-tumble style, credit goes to the Zags for beating West Virginia at its own game to advance to the Elite Eight.
- And It Came Down to Defense. Everyone knows about West Virginia’s pressure defense, and it was certainly a factor tonight — the Zags committed 16 turnovers that included a period in the late second half when it appeared the wheels might be completely coming off. But it was the less-heralded Gonzaga defense that held West Virginia to a moribund 27 percent from the field and 21 percent from three-point range, allowing Mark Few’s team just enough wiggle room to suffer a horrid offensive night and still come away with the win. As Huggins alluded to after the game, there simply weren’t many open looks for his team tonight.
- That Final Play Though. The final play of the game — which was really three offensive plays in one — resulted in West Virginia’s Jevon Carter dribbling 22 times (!!!) in an effort to isolate and create space for a pair of long not-close threes. When the Mountaineers grabbed the offensive rebound both times, the ball ended up in his hands again. His final attempt, which Gonzaga had by this point completely sniffed out and covered well beyond the top of the key, resulted in what would have been a blocked shot but ended up being a bailout pass to the wing and no shot at all. It was a disastrous end to a disastrous game, but it felt completely appropriate given all the nastiness that had been displayed over the previous 39+ minutes.
Star of the Game. Jordan Mathews, Gonzaga. In a game where points were at a premium, the most insane play of the game occurred after West Virginia had missed two free throws, Gonzaga corralled the rebound, only to have the ball stolen and a layup attempt blocked (possibly fouled?) and the Zags moving back upcourt. After a tipped 40-foot pass from the right sideline to Mathews standing on the left wing, his three-pointer broke a deadlocked game and allowed the Zags to put together their final stand. Mathews only logged 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field, but his shot will go down in Gonzaga lore in a game that surely felt like it was slipping away.
- “You tell me another team that can shoot 26 percent from field, 21 percent from three, and still coulda woulda won the game.” — West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins, on how well his team played.
- “Mistake on my behalf… I should have drove it to the basket.” — West Virginia’s Jevon Carter, on the final offensive possession where he missed a pair of threes and ultimately dribbled out the clock.
“Hang on, J3, unbelievable game by you today especially in the first half. None of us could score or do anything, but you were kind of able to — talk about breaking down the pressure as a 4 man when our guards have been bringing it up all year.” — Mark Few, playing the role of journalist in asking his own player, Johnathan Williams, a question.
Sights and Sounds. The only sound for most of tonight’s game was that of a whistle, followed by a long and prodigious round of booing from the assembled crowd in San Jose. Many fans hoping to see a good game were astonished at the number of foul calls — many coming away from the ball — that the zebras felt necessary to log tonight. They also spent an inordinate amount of time looking at a play at the 1:59 mark of the second half, with many of the fans booing for that disruption as well. The game was awful in so many different ways that there really weren’t any other sights and sounds worth mentioning.
What’s Next. Gonzaga will advance to Saturday’s regional final against the winner of Arizona vs. Xavier. The Zags assuredly feel like they survived after this one. West Virginia heads home to hit the weight room for another offseason of figuring out how to ugly up next year’s game.