Coach Mark Few says Gonzaga shouldn't let close call affect his team the rest of the tournament.
SALT LAKE CITY — Now that Gonzaga’s difficult 64-58 victory over Southern is in the books, this seems the issue of the moment:
Does an unconvincing victory against a No. 16 seed have any effect on the psyche of a team that has won 15 straight entering Saturday’s game against Wichita State?
“I hope it doesn’t,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few. “We’re certainly going to move on. This was a funky 16 seed coming at us, blocking our shots. Who knows what this next one will bring? Maybe another batch of adversity. Maybe it’s foul trouble, maybe you can’t make a shot. They kind of have their own lives.”
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As Few points out, it’s not as though Gonzaga had only blowouts this year. The Zags had to function well late in games against teams like Oklahoma State, Saint Mary’s (in the first two games), at Butler (except for the awful, final inbounds play) and at Brigham Young.
“We’ve been pretty good the last four minutes of every game,” Few said.
Few’s assistant, Ray Giacoletti, said, “I’m telling you, our guys had great poise.”
Gary Bell Jr., who had the trey that gave Gonzaga the lead for good with 3:21 left, said, “I don’t think this team feels any pressure at all. If we execute like we did down the stretch, we can beat anybody. We’ve just got to keep doing that — not trying to make plays on the first side (without reversing the ball), keep the ball moving. That’s what we did at the end.”
Zags respect Jags
Giacoletti said the 23 victories for Southern told him this was a competitive bunch, because such underfunded programs must go on the road in nonconference play and play “guarantee” games for a paycheck — and usually a loss.
Southern played at Iowa State, Nebraska, Wyoming, Tulane, TCU and Texas A&M, winning at A&M, playing Nebraska within 11 and Wyoming within seven.
“Hey,” said Giacoletti, “I had a team at Eastern (Washington, when he was head coach there), when we won 18 games, and with five guarantee games, it’s not an easy thing to do.”
The Jaguars committed to stopping Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, making shots difficult for both and negating the high-low passing between the two.
“The whole game, the whole entire paint was constantly loaded with their guys,” said Harris, who was just 2 for 10 for five points and missed two dunks on one possession.
“They weren’t guarding Mike Hart and they weren’t guarding David Stockton,” said Giacoletti. “You can’t do any high-low stuff.”
Those two took only four shots in a combined 43 minutes, but guards Stockton, Bell and Kevin Pangos combined for 31 points and 12 assists (seven by Stockton) with six turnovers.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org