SALT LAKE CITY — Top-ranked, top-seeded Gonzaga’s NCAA basketball tournament run turned out to be a short one.
Wichita State, down eight with 11:53 left, put together an astonishingly efficient offensive finish and dropped the Zags, 76-70, to march on to the Sweet 16.
Gonzaga goes home after compiling the most wins in school history, finishing 32-3.
The Zags, playing without guard Gary Bell Jr. for most of the second half, led 58-51 as Kevin Pangos was directing and hitting threes. But Wichita State scratched ahead 62-61, hitting three straight threes in the middle of scoring on eight straight possessions.
Ron Baker, a redshirt freshman, came up huge in the game for Wichita State. He had a three that ended a 12-0 Gonzaga run in the second half, and his trey from the right wing was a dagger that gave the Missouri Valley Conference runners-up a 67-63 lead.
But the one that Gonzaga fans likely will remember came with 1:24 remaining and the Zags trailing only 67-65. Backup guard Fred Van Vleet, working against David Stockton as the shot clock was dwindling, flicked the ball up from the left wing and it dropped through, giving the Shockers a 70-65 lead, and they hung on from there.
A 12-0 run early in the second half hauled the Zags back from a five-point deficit and gave them a 49-41 lead with 11:53 left. But the Shockers wouldn’t go away. They got a key three-pointer from the right corner to break the Gonzaga run, and as the game wound to the final seven minutes, it became a three-point shooting contest.
The Zags were without Bell for the last 17 minutes of the game with an undisclosed injury.
While Pangos fired successfully for the Zags, the Shockers got three consecutive threes from Tekele Cotton, Cleanthony Early and Baker, the last one bringing them within one at 61-60. Then Carl Hall’s 15-footer gave the Shockers a 62-61 lead with 3:26 left.
Gonzaga struggled through a first half that was mostly miserable, shooting only 9 of 28 (32.1 percent), while Wichita State was 14 of 29 for 48.3 percent. The Shockers, a team that came in hitting only 33 percent of its threes, was 7 of 15 from distance.
Rebounding, seen as a key coming in — the Shockers were No. 7 in the country in rebound margin, the Zags No. 11 — favored Gonzaga, 21-14, at the break, and the Zags, amazingly, had 11 offensive boards. Problem was, they made nine turnovers and shot so poorly, the extra possessions only gave them an edge of four on second-chance points, because they couldn’t get the ball to go down.
Wichita State was committed to a rough, physical game, not unexpectedly. The Shockers had three “bigs” with two fouls apiece at the half. The second one on Ehimen Orupke, a 7-foot Nigerian, was a flagrant against Kelly Olynyk, who pleaded his case after Pangos hit a three that helped give Gonzaga some badly needed momentum.
After Elias Harris gave Gonzaga its only lead of the first half with two free throws at 11:17, Wichita State embarked on a 13-0 run that put the Zags in a 23-12 hole. Gonzaga went all the way from the 12:48 mark to 5:16 without a field goal during that stretch, missing looks both good and bad.
Meanwhile, Wichita State got threes during that spurt from Oregon transfer guard Malcolm Armstead and Cotton. Olynyk, who shot eight free throws in the first half, finally ended the drought at 7:18 when he made one of two free throws.
Olynyk led Gonzaga before the break with 13 points, while Early led the Shockers with eight.
Louisville 82, Colorado State 56
Lexington, Ky. — After mowing through another opponent, Louisville seems intent on making another deep run through the NCAA Tournament. Russ Smith had 27 points and the Cardinals’ defense created intense havoc in an drubbing of Colorado State in third-round play of the Midwest Region. For the second game in a row and 15th time this season, the Cardinals (31-5), who’ll will face 12th-seeded Oregon Friday in Indianapolis, forced 20 turnovers and will now head back to the Sweet 16 for a second consecutive season.
Michigan 78, VCU 53
Auburn Hills, Mich. — Mitch McGary scored 21 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to power Michigan to a rout of VCU in the third round of the NCAA Tournament in front of a partisan crowd at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Trey Burke added 18 points and seven assists, while Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr. each chipped in 14 points for the Wolverines (28-7), who advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1994. Michigan, seeded fourth in the South, will play either Kansas or North Carolina in a potential blockbuster regional semifinal next Friday in Arlington, Texas.
Michigan State 70, Memphis 48
Auburn Hills, Mich. — Freshman Gary Harris scored a career-high 23 points, as Michigan State stifled Memphis iin the third round of the NCAA Tournament at the Palace of Auburn Hills. AMichigan State (27-8), seeded third in the Midwest Region, will next play the winner between Duke and Creighton.
Arizona 74, Harvard 51
Salt Lake City — The clock struck midnight for one of the Cinderella teams of this year’s NCAA Tournament. Mark Lyons poured in 27 points and Arizona breezed into the Sweet 16 with an authoritative victory over underdog Harvard in a West Region third round matchup. Arizona (27-7) did its part on the defensive end as well in a wire-to-wire win that placed the sixth-seeded Wildcats into Thursday’s Regional semifinal in Los Angeles against either Ohio State or Iowa State.
Marquette 74, Butler 72
Lexington, Ky. — Two wins by a combined three points has Marquette in the Sweet Sixteen. Vander Blue netted 29 points, including a clutch 3-pointer to tie the game late, and Jamil Wilson sunk two go-ahead free throws with 47.7 seconds remaining to lift Marquette over sixth-seeded Butler in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Eagles (25-8) will play the winner of Sunday’s matchup between Miami and Illinois, on Thursday in Washington, D.C.
Syracuse 66, California 60
San Jose, Calif. — C.J. Fair netted 18 points in Syracuse’s win over the California in the third round of the NCAA Tournament in front of a partisan Cal crowd at HP Pavilion. James Southerland tallied 14 points and nine rebounds, while Michael Carter- Williams added 12 points for fourth-seeded Syracuse (28-9), who will play the winner of today’s Indiana/Temple game in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.