Barely avoiding a second-round upset may have refocused the No. 1 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs as they meet the No. 9 Wichita State Shockers Saturday in Salt Lake City.
Gonzaga held off Southern 64-58, but not before the Jaguars tied the game with under four minutes left and star Kelly Olynyk playing it safe with four fouls.
Olynyk posted 21 points and 10 rebounds, but Kevin Pangos’s three-pointer and two free throws in the final two minutes of play eventually silenced Southern’s upset bid.
Pangos finished with 16 points and five assists, and Gary Bell Jr. added 11 points. The pair combined for seven three-pointers, and the Bulldogs won the rebound battle 36-20.
Typically a 50 percent shooter, Elias Harris had trouble finding the hoop, going 2-for-10 for five points, but did pull down eight rebounds.
The Shockers had much less trouble against Pittsburgh, trailing only once in their 73-55 second round win.
Malcolm Armstead netted a game-high 22 points, and Cleanthony Early came off the bench for 21 points and seven rebounds. Wichita State did struggle mightily from the three-point line, hitting two of their 20 attempts, but equally stymied the Panthers’ attempts from downtown, surrendering one triple.
The Shockers can make their second Sweet 16 since 2006 with a victory.
The winner meets either No. 12 Ole Miss or No. 13 La Salle next weekend.
The game tips-off at 8:40 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast by TNT, or watch a free live online stream at the NCAA March Madness official site here.
Betting Odds: Gonzaga is favored by 6.5 points.
Over/Under: 129 points
Prediction: Wichita State plays top notch perimeter defense, which could cause huge problems for Gonzaga and the pick-and-roll it runs so well with Olynyk. The Shockers may trouble to score as well, especially on the interior. The game will come down to how well Pangos and Harris make good on their opportunities, and Gonzaga’s free throw shooting. Look for the Bulldogs to carry on a tightly contested win.
Predicted Score: Gonzaga 62 , Wichita State 57