NCAA Tournament: Wichita State freshmen help make final run
The freshmen led them in the end.
Faced with an eight-point deficit with eight minutes remaining on a dwindling season, Wichita State needed someone anyone to step up and make shots.
Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet were those people.
The Shockers' 76-70 win over Gonzaga came on the backs of Baker and VanVleet, two rookies who proved unafraid of the big moment.
"How about the direction of the program with all of the young guys making shots?" Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said.
"Those two are winners. Fred hates to lose at anything. He got mad at my daughter once over a shuffleboard game. I have all of the confidence in the world having him on the floor in clutch situations. He and Ron came up big tonight."
The two combined for 29 points, with many of those coming in the second half. VanVleet hit what may have been the most important shot of the game, a 3-pointer that gave Wichita State a 75-70 lead with a little more than a minute remaining.
Done in by injury
Gonzaga's guards were outplayed by their Wichita State counterparts. A primary reason had to be the injury to Gary Bell Jr., the sophomore starter. He played two minutes in the second half because of a foot ailment that was first thought to be an ankle injury.
Bell tried to play, but in the end it was too painful, coach Mark Few said.
"At the end, he just couldn't go," Few said. "It hurt too much. Now we have to go home and get it evaluated. It hurt us on the defensive end. Their guards were making shots, and our best defensive player was sitting with us."
To stay or go?
Kelly Olynyk led the Bulldogs with a game-high 26 points and nine rebounds. The question is whether Saturday was his final performance as a Bulldog. The redshirt junior is a lottery pick on many NBA Draft projections. The All-American is coveted as a 7-footer with perimeter skills and the size and toughness to play in the post.