Friday, March 22, 2013
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Gwinnett Daily Post
Preview: Gonzaga vs. Wichita State
A shaky first outing was survived and top-seeded Gonzaga hopes to give a much stronger performance against ninth-seeded Wichita State with an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 berth on the line Saturday in Salt Lake City. The top-ranked Bulldogs were given quite a scare by 16th-seeded Southern and didn't secure the 64-58 victory until the final half-minute. The Shockers had a much easier time by routing Pittsburgh 73-55. Wichita State lacks star power, but is strong defensively.
The Zags put on brave faces after Thursday's victory despite being one of the few No. 1 seeds severely challenged by a 16 seed. "Any win in the tournament is a good win," junior forward Kelly Olynyk said after the team's 15th consecutive victory. "So we have to kind of take that into consideration and then moving forward, we've got some stuff we can work on." The Shockers aren't intimidated by Gonzaga and are planning for a fierce battle. "Playing angry, toughness, going out and give it your all," senior guard Malcolm Armstead said. "Not leaving anything on the floor. You've got to leave it all on the floor at the end of the day."
TV: 8:40 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT GONZAGA (32-2): Olynyk started slow against Southern before cranking it up and scoring 17 of his 21 points in the second half. The West Coast Conference Player of the Year took a more aggressive approach over the final 20 minutes and it paid off. "In the second half, I really just had to focus on finishing plays," said Olynyk, who also grabbed 10 rebounds for his fifth career double-double. Bulldogs coach Mark Few said there was extra emphasis placed on working the ball into Olynyk. Sophomore guard Kevin Pangos also played well and made four 3-pointers en route to 16 points.
ABOUT WICHITA STATE (27-8): Armstead had 22 points and junior forward Cleanthony Early added 21 against Pittsburgh, but a player who had only six points also was one of the heroes. Sophomore guard Tekele Cotton pestered Panthers' leading scorer Tray Woodall to two points on 1-of-12 shooting and recorded a career-best five steals. "Malcolm called him a free safety - I think he's more of a strong safety," Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said. "I think he's going to come up and help in run support. He's a tremendous athlete." Senior forward Carl Hall (12.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) will be a key player against a Gonzaga squad with a strong frontcourt. Hall has posted five consecutive double-digit outings and has 43 blocks, second on Wichita State behind senior center Ehimen Orukpe's 54.
1. Wichita State is 1-6 when playing the nation's top-ranked team.
2. The Shockers are aiming to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006.
3. The Bulldogs made eight 3-pointers against Southern and are 12-0 when making eight or more in a game this season.
PREDICTION: Gonzaga 67, Wichita State 65