Kelly Olynyk and Kevin Pangos guided the Gonzaga Bulldogs to a No. 1 seed in the 2013 NCAA tournament, and both guys had a big hand in keeping them there after a second-round scare against No. 16 Southern.
Gonzaga survived behind 21 points from Olynyk and another 16 from Pangos, the latter of which was involved in the final three field goals (two jumpers and an assist) the Bulldogs converted late to win this game outright, 64-58.
The No. 1 team in the nation (according to the final AP Top 25 poll of the season) struggled to put away the Southern Jaguars at any point in the game. Southern hung tough behind 21 points from guard Derick Beltran, who converted big shot after big shot down the stretch to keep the Jags in position to pull off the stunning upset.
Southern was intent on being the first-ever No. 16 seed to win a game in the first or second-round of the NCAA tournament, giving Gonzaga fits with its stellar defense and three-point shooting. It tied the game at 56 with just under four minutes to play, but consecutive threes by Gary Bell Jr. and Pangos gave the Bulldogs enough cushion to survive the final minute of the Southern attack.
Olynyk, the senior headed for the NBA after this tournament is over for Gonzaga, looked every bit like the best player on the floor.
He consistently took advantage of the Southern defenders inside, using his body extremely well to get both easy shots around the rim and run the pick-and-roll well with guards Pangos and David Stockton. He did give fans a scare after picking up his fourth foul with 4:08 to play, but Southern was unable to get the ball inside to Brandon Moore and attempt to foul the Gonzaga star out of the game.
The Zags finished with the third-best field goal percentage in college basketball per game (50.4) during the regular season, but survived this game by shooting just 41.8 from the field.
Southern, the Southwestern Athletic Conference champions, deserve all the credit in the world for going into Salt Lake City and having a chance to win this game late. The bounces just didn't go their way at the end of the game, and Gonzaga hit big shots in big moments to avoid being the first No. 1 seed to fall to a No. 16 in the 38-year possibility of that matchup.
Check out the Twitter reaction and analysis section below for additional commentary on Gonzaga's second-round survival.
To put into perspective just how impressive Southern's performance was, check out this tweet from ESPN's Stats and Information:
Southern is only the 5th 16-seed in the last 20 years to come within single digits of a 1-seed.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 21, 2013
Olynyk was easily the best thing going for Gonzaga, but ESPN's Chris Harris made sure to compare the long-haired star to some of the 1980s' most endearing movie characters:
Kelly Olynyk looks like what happened when the freshman from Dazed and Confused hit a growth spurt.— Christopher Harris (@CHarrisESPN) March 21, 2013
Spike Lee wished he could have been in attendance:
Southern University Gave Gonzaga The Scare Of Their Lives. Great Game. College Ball Is Great.It's MARCH MADNESS.— Spike Lee (@SpikeLee) March 21, 2013
B/R's own Adam Fromal with the tweet of the afternoon, after Pangos almost single-handedly made sure Gonzaga wasn't on the wrong side of the NCAA record books:
Kevin Pangos doesn't like history.— Adam Fromal (@fromal09) March 21, 2013
Andy Glockner had a message for all the Southern bandwagoners:
I'm getting a good amt of "Southern's a good team, dude" in my feed. Link me to ONE person before the game who said they would be trouble— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) March 21, 2013
Former NFL pro Marcellus Wiley was one of many that likely breathed a huge sigh of relief after the biggest scare for a top seed so far:
Here's my Final Four:Gonzaga, Michigan State, Indiana, and Florida......what ya think?— Marcellus Wiley (@marcelluswiley) March 21, 2013
If you haven't yet seen the highlights from the game, here's a few, courtesy of NCAA March Madness' official account:
Real-time highlight: 1 seed Gonzaga narrowly escapes elimination by 16 seed Southern.- snpy.tv/163v4AR— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 21, 2013
Finally, Jason Lisk had a tweet that certainly puts the odds against the Zags in the coming days:
If you scared at the end of this game because you have Gonzaga in the Final Four, you're likely not alone.
However, Southern exposed the Zags to some of the problems that many have with putting the team in the Final Four in Atlanta. The guard play was spotty at best against guys that were superior athletes from Southern, and Olynyk had to be all-world to help keep this team alive in the mid-stages of the game.
Will Gonzaga make the Final Four?
Pangos and Olynyk showed out, but where was Elias Harris?
The forward had just five points on 2-of-10 shooting, and he should have been a matchup nightmare for this Southern team without a true threat on the other sideline to match up with him on offense. Instead, he disappeared down the stretch and differed to the other guys that can make plays in key moments.
It worked in the second round, but this game should tell you how hard it's going to be for Gonzaga to get to the Final Four. While Olynyk gives the team a legitimate go-to guy on both ends that can take over a game, Gonzaga won't stick around long if it waits until the final four minutes to make shots in later rounds.
Stay up-to-date with March Madness by following along with the live tournament bracket, and by printing out a PDF of this year's draw. Follow all the exciting NCAA Tournament action with March Madness Live.