Rushed Reactions: #1 Gonzaga 64, #16 Southern 58Posted by AMurawa on March 21st, 2013
Andrew Murawa is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #1 Gonzaga and #16 Southern in Salt Lake City.
Three Key Takeaways.
- Keeping It Close. After keeping it tight for the better part of 30 minutes, it looked like Gonzaga was ready to pull away and ease to victory. Kelly Olynyk had scored 15 of the Zags first 18 points in the second half and with Southern having no one with the size and quickness to match him, we were ready for the inevitable double-digit win. But then something funny happened. Some of the Bulldog jumpers stopped going down, they turned it over a few times and the next thing you know, following some key blocks and increasingly improbable three-point shots going down for the Jaguars, we were all tied up with under four to go. But down the stretch, the Gonzaga guards took the baton from Olynyk and between Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., scored the final ten points for the Zags to seal the game.
- So That’s A Number One Seed? There was plenty of talk since the brackets were announced about the long-term viability of the Bulldogs after earning their first-ever one-seed. And, the early returns are not promising. Certainly, the Jaguars needed to hit some insane three-pointers to stick around, and Olynyk looked at times like a guy capable of overpowering his smaller opponents, but this was not an impressive performance by the Zags. Elias Harris turned in a 2-for-10 outing and got rejected at the rim twice by smaller Southern defenders and the Bulldog backcourt caused absolutely no problems for the quick Southern backcourt. With a tough and talented Wichita State team awaiting in the next round, Gonzaga is going to have to play much better. One area where the Zags do deserve credit thought: down the stretch as the game tightened up where it could have been really easy for them to feel the pressure, they played with poise in the final few minutes.
- Southern Celebrations. We’ll have hazy memories of these guys years in the future, so let’s take some time right now to recognize some of the great performances turned in by Jaguar players today. Off-guard Derick Beltran time and time again hit big shots, knocking down four threes as well as a pair of late two-point jumpers in his defender’s face; point guard Jameel Grace was nails throughout, getting into the lane in order to create opportunities, even if he hit just one of his eight field goal attempts; Brandon Moore and Javan Mitchell patrolled the paint, racking up seven blocks between them against taller opponents. And all told, the Jaguars got terrific performances by guys up and down the roster.
Star of the Game. Southern University. I could pick somebody from the winning team here (Olynyk’s 21/10 or Pangos’ 16 and big shots down the stretch are good candidates), but really, the star here was Southern University from start to finish. And I can’t even single out one of the players. From head coach Roman Banks on down the line, the Jaguars all deserve credit.
Sights & Sounds. The Southern Band. Nicknamed the Human Jukebox, they’re one of the most famous marching bands in college sports and they certainly did not fail to put on a great show getting everybody in the arena’s attention. I’m sure Gonzaga’s band is great in its own right, but they’re both in completely different ballparks. While the Zag band pumped out nice little ditties like “Call Me Maybe” or whatever, the Marching Band From Jaguar Land launched into epic-length breakdowns. If they had an NCAA Tournament for marching bands, there is little doubt that it would be Southern who would be the heavily-favored one-seed in this matchup.
Quotable. Roman Banks: I came to Southern to try to build a basketball program and I often use Gonzaga as an example. To be playing this team after using them as an example all year long is special. To have the group of guys that come from the adversity that we come from as a basketball program and nobody in their wildest dreams in two years of having the job thought we would be here is emotional. But the thing that is more emotional to me is that these guys believed in me and believed in my vision and they never gave up.
Wildcard. One great stat from ESPN: since 1997, no 16-seed ranked 182d or worse in RPI has ever lost by less than 15 points to a one-seed; does that say more about Southern or Gonzaga?
What’s Next? Southern loses four seniors from this team, including Grace, Beltran and Mitchell who all made significant contributions today. Gonzaga, meanwhile, will advance to face Wichita State on Saturday, a team with bigger and more athletic players than the team that gave them all the trouble they could stand today.