NCAA Tournament: Faced with pressure, Gonzaga never folds
The close call won't affect them. Not one bit.
A 64-58 win over Southern won't cause Gonzaga to be shaken against Wichita State. Narrowly avoiding history for the wrong reason won't rattle the Bulldogs.
This was a confident bunch in the press conference following Thursday's second-round scare. Gonzaga nearly became the first top seed ever to lose to a No. 16 seed. Instead, the Bulldogs made all the big plays down the stretch, showing why they will enter the third round at EnergySolutions Arena with a 32-2 record.
"I reminded them last week that nothing was going to be easy," Bulldogs coach Mark Few said. "I said nothing matters. Whatever comes at us, if a call doesn't go our way, we miss an easy bunny, miss an assignment, move on to the next play.
"I thought we had one timeout where we were pretty dazed. But for the most part, we were really dialed in."
Although he never said as much before the matchup, Few privately worried about the Jaguars. Malcolm Miller and Derick Beltran are long and athletic perimeter shooters. Southern had plenty of big men on the interior, ready to give fouls and protect the rim.
The Jaguars were physical. They were defensively sound. In a matchup that dictates the ultimate mismatch, Southern never once had the look of a No. 16 seed.
"I thought this could become a grinder, the more and more I looked at them on film," Few said. "That was a good team over there, and I told my guys that."
Ultimately, those pregame talks allowed the Bulldogs to prevail. Many a team in its place would've panicked on Thursday.
EnergySolutions Arena overwhelmingly took to Southern's cause. The officiating calls went against the Bulldogs down the stretch.
But Gonzaga never folded. It never rattled. In the process, the Bulldogs showed the country exactly why they were the top seed.
"We knew we just had to fight through everything that was going on at the time," Gonzaga guard David Stockton said. "We knew we would pull through."