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Gonzaga vs. Northwestern: Score and Twitter Reaction from March Madness 2017

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 18: Nigel Williams-Goss #5 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs attempts a shot defended by Vic Law #4 of the Northwestern Wildcats during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 18, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Gonzaga Bulldogs didn't look like a No. 1 seed for the entirety of their round of 64 win over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. 

The story was the same Saturday. 

Matched up against the eighth-seeded Northwestern Wildcats with a Sweet 16 berth on the line, the Bulldogs just barely held on to defeat the Big Ten darlings and capture a 79-73 win at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City.

Although the Wildcats trailed by 18 points at halftime, they went on a 23-8 run in the second half and trimmed the deficit to five with 5:31 remaining before tensions ran high following a controversial non-call on a late Gonzaga block: 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Northwestern's coach got a tech for this, but he has a point 🤔 https://t.co/9xFS9n5ves

However, emotional outbursts weren't limited to Northwestern's coaching staff:  

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

March gets to all of us, kid 😰 #MarchMadness https://t.co/pOYqQZgPvf

Ultimately, though, the Wildcats didn't have enough offense to overcome their dismal first-half performance, which was laid out by ESPN Stats & Info: 

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ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Northwestern has missed 16 of its first 17 jump shots

All told, Northwestern shot 40.9 percent from the field and 8-of-24 from three as their first trip to the NCAA tournament came to a close. 

On the flip side, the Bulldogs followed Nigel Williams-Goss' lead in the scoring column. 

The junior guard paced Gonzaga with 20 points (6-of-19 shooting), eight rebounds and four assists, and he made an impact in several key areas during Gonzaga's scalding start, according to Draft Express' Mike Schmitz: 

Mike Schmitz @Mike_Schmitz

Strong start for Williams-Goss. Knocking down pull ups, putting pressure on the rim, dropping in floaters, accurate lob passer, digging on D

In the supplementary scoring department, Jordan Mathews provided welcome reinforcements out of the backcourt to the tune of 14 points, seven boards and three steals. 

But despite the solid backcourt play, the Bulldogs were not always at their most efficient.

The West Region's No. 1 seed shot 44.1 percent from the field and 25.0 percent from three, marks that likely won't cut it against the West Virginia Mountaineers' press-heavy attack. 

The fourth-seeded Mountaineers—who defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 83-71 Saturday afternoon—wield one of the nation's most unique and aggressive defensive schemes, and it could pose problems for a Bulldogs offense that likes to set up its sets quickly by pushing tempo. 

If the Bulldogs are going to solve the Mountaineers' fifth-ranked defense and shift things away from a less frenetic pace, the interior play of Zach Collins (14 points, five rebounds), Przemek Karnowski (nine points, four rebounds) and Killian Tillie (eight points, four rebounds) will be key, as Athlon Sports' Bryan Fischer noted: 

Bryan Fischer @BryanDFischer

Mark Few getting a long look at playing Collins and Tillie together on the block. Notable for next week if there’s more tempo.

Those maulers have the ability to facilitate easy buckets on one end and prevent them on the other, and their size should give the likes of Nathan Adrian and Elijah Macon trouble on the glass.

And with a handful of days to prepare, the Bulldogs should be committed to fine-tuning their game following two relatively uninspiring performances to open the Big Dance. 

Postgame Reaction

After the loss, Northwestern head coach Chris Collins reflected on the disappointing result, as March Madness TV documented: 

March Madness TV @MarchMadnessTV

“They showed themselves that they can compete at this level, they belong [here] and that we are a good team” – Chris Collins https://t.co/D9vVju9PjU

On the officiating front, Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn relayed a statement from the NCAA that confirmed referees should have called Gonzaga for goaltending: 

Luke Winn @lukewinn

NCAA issues statement on Gonzaga-Northwestern goaltend https://t.co/2YHKe6TwA0

"Thank you for the statement, appreciate it," Collins said after it was read aloud at his postgame press conference, per Fischer. "Should have been a three point game."

Gonzaga, meanwhile, reveled in the win with a raucous postgame celebration, as shown by NCAA March Madness on Twitter: 

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

Fewest games to 500 Wins Adolph Rupp 583 Jerry Tarkanian 604 Mark Few 612 Roy Williams 627 #MarchMadness https://t.co/kbMBO3aTUc

At the podium, Bulldogs head coach Mark Few had nothing but praise for Collins and the Wildcats. 

"They better step up and keep him [Collins] around because he's really, really good," he said, per CBS 5's Tim Ring

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