Nigel Williams-Goss led the Zags (34-1) with 20 points.

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SALT LAKE CITY – Chris Collins was right. It was goaltending all the way.

The Northwestern coach was also wrong — at the worst time possible for his underdog team.

After not getting the call, Collins stomped onto the court and drew a technical foul with 4:54 left in Saturday’s game, sucking life out of a frenetic comeback that fell short in a 79-73 loss to top-seeded Gonzaga in the West Region.

Thursday

Gonzaga (34-1) vs. West Virginia (28-8) in San Jose, Calif., time TBA

What a strange, heartbreaking way to close out the Wildcats’ first trip to the NCAA tournament.

Adding to the awkwardness: The NCAA released a statement acknowledging the call was missed, and Collins was sitting at the postgame news conference when he learned about it for the first time.

“I appreciate the apology,” said Collins, venom practically dripping off his tongue. “It makes me feel great.”

Nigel Williams-Goss finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists to power Gonzaga (34-1), which led by as many as 22 points in the first half, then saw the lead dwindle to five.

The arena, drenched in purple, was rocking and all the momentum seemingly was in Northwestern’s corner.

The eighth-seeded Wildcats (24-12) got the ball down to Dererk Pardon for a point-blank shot that was on its way in. Gonzaga 7-footer Zach Collins reached up through the net and deflected the ball out. No whistle blew. Gonzaga got the rebound and started down court. Chris Collins ran onto the court, charged toward the referee and gestured as if he were knocking a ball out of the hoop from the bottom.

An automatic “T.” The NCAA’s postgame statement also said Collins was hit with the technical for violating “bench decorum” rules by stepping onto the court with the ball in play.

On the other end, Williams-Goss made both free throws. Northwestern never got closer.

Regrets? If the coach had any, they weren’t apparent in the aftermath.

“If I see a guy from another team put his hand through the rim and block a shot, I’m going to react to it if the play isn’t called,” Collins said. “I think all of you would. Of course. That cuts it to three. We’re all emotional. We’re coming back from 20 down.”

What a comeback it was. Bryant McIntosh scored 13 of his 20 points in the second half and Vic Law had 15 of his 18.

Law dunked an offensive rebound to cut the deficit to 63-58 and, on the other end, Scottie Lindsey swatted Williams-Goss down low to give Northwestern the ball.

Pardon took a pass from McIntosh and went up strong against Zach Collins for what should have been two points. After the game, the Gonzaga player was still unclear about what, exactly, happened.

“I thought I blocked the shot and they thought it was a foul,” Collins said.

Zags coach Mark Few wasn’t pinning the victory on that single turn of events. But he more than understood the emotion of the moment.

“You guys feel it and see it when it comes to these games,” said Few, who improved his record to 500-112 in 18 seasons. “You lose, your season’s over. You win, in Northwestern’s case, it’s probably the best thing they’ve done in the history of the school. You react spontaneously and stuff happens.”

Gonzaga is on to its third straight Sweet 16, in search of the program’s first trip to the Final Four. The Zags play fourth-seeded West Virginia on Thursday in San Jose, Calif.