Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early (11) is wrapped up by Gonzaga guard Mike Hart (30) during the second half of their third round NCAA tournament basketball game in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 23, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
SALT LAKE CITY -- Ron Baker and Cleanthony Early scored 16 points apiece and Fred VanVleet hit a huge 3-pointer and clutch free throws to lift No. 9 seed Wichita State to a shocking 76-70 upset victory over No. 1-seeded Gonzaga on Saturday night.
The Shockers led by as many as 13 points in the first half, but found themselves behind by eight points midway through the second quarter before rallying to knock off the nation's top-ranked team.
With the stunner, Wichita State (28-8) made it to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006.
Center Kelly Olynyk scored 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds and Kevin Pangos added 19 points, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Bulldogs (32-3) from becoming the first No. 1 seed to fall in the 2013 tournament.
Gonzaga, which struggled in a win over No. 16 Southern on Thursday, hasn't made it to the Sweet 16 since 2006.
Olynyk and Pangos missed 3-pointers -- and Pangos and Drew Barham missed three free throws -- in the final 25 seconds that could have made for an even more furious finish.
VanVleet hit four free throws and Armstead sank a pair of foul shots in the 40 seconds to clinch the win up for the Shockers.
Baker sparked Wichita State's comeback with a 3-pointer to make it 49-44 with just over 11 minutes to go.
Things got downright wild in the final six minutes. The teams went back-and-forth on five possessions with 3-point swishes.
Carl Hall hit a jumper after 3s by Baker, Early and Tekele Cotton to give Wichita State a 62-61 lead with three and a half minutes remaining.
Wichita State had a one-point lead when miscommunication on an inbound pass resulted in a turnover by David Stockton and a game-changing momentum swing.
Baker and VanVleet followed that Gonzaga miscue with two of Wichita State's 14 3-pointers to put the Shockers up 70-65.
VanVleet's free throws with 38.6 seconds remaining gave Wichita State a seven-point lead.
Moments later, the Shocker band was singing, "We're going to L.A.!"
Elias Harris added 12 points and seven rebounds, while Mike Hart pulled down 14 boards for Gonzaga.
VanVleet finished with 13 points for the Shockers, who shot 50 percent to Gonzaga's 35.6 percent.
Wichita State came out strong in the first half, and especially from deep range. The Shockers hit 7 of 15 3-pointers, with six different players connecting from outside, to go ahead by as many as 13 points.
Ron Baker's 3-pointer put Wichita State ahead 26-13 with 7:18 left in the first half before Gonzaga got going.
Olynyk trimmed the Shockers' lead to three 14 seconds before halftime, but Wichita State's Jake White ended the half with a tip-in at the buzzer for a 36-31 halftime advantage.
NOTES: Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall has faced Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament before. In 2005, his Winthrop squad took a two-point halftime lead over the third-seeded Bulldogs but ended up losing 74-64. ... This is Malcolm Armstead's only season with Wichita State. He previously played for Chipola Junior College, then at Oregon for two years before heading to Wichita for his senior season. ... Gonzaga coach Mark Few had to give a reporter a quick history lesson. Asked about the Zags' tradition of good guards, it was suggested that the run began in 2000 with Matt Santangelo. The school's most famous almuni -- John Stockton -- became a Hall of Famer while playing for 13 seasons at EnergySolutions Arena. Stockton's son, David, is a sophomore on Gonzaga's team. Few said getting strong guards is "an easy sell" for him. "It goes all the way back to John," Few said of the 1983 Gonzaga grad. "We have had a tremendous run of guards at Gonzaga and I think they see our style of play and they see we develop them."