Like the 2003 NCAA Tournament, Gonzaga and Arizona played a great game that needed overtime to decide. And, like that meeting, Arizona came out on top.
The No. 9 Zags went into the house of the No. 3 Wildcats and showed, despite the loss, that they were more than capable of hanging with the top teams in the country. Arizona held the Zags to a season low in points, and effectively forced Gonzaga to play the Wildcats' game. Still, the Zags led for the vast majority of regulation.
A brutal ending marred what was an otherwise excellent game. Could we have an encore in March, please?
Neither Arizona nor Gonzaga were able to shoot the ball well in the first half, with both teams hovering around the 30 percent mark. Surprising for the Zags but not so much for the still developing offense of Arizona.
Brandon Ashley hit his first two three pointers of the season as the Wildcats lived behind the arc in the first.
The Zags' defense, which has been unspectacularly solid for the past two seasons, kept the Wildcats quiet inside the arc. Arizona made 9 of 28 field goals in the first half but five of those came from three point range.
Gonzaga took a 16-15 lead with 8:12 to play in the first half. They wouldn't give the lead back in regulation. They also wouldn't pull away.
Coming out of halftime Gonzaga looked like a team they rarely have in the past. The Zags were playing angry, like they were the big boys on the court.
The crowd at the McKale Center was incensed when the Zags got away with two could-have-been over the backs. First Kyle Dranginis somehow snagged an offensive rebound in traffic then, on the next possession, Domantas Sabonis tied up and tackled Brandon Ashely, winning a jump ball.
Sabonis, who started the half in place of Kyle Wiltjer, picked up his third foul just over five minutes into the half. He was able to defend Arizona's athletic forwards better than Wiltjer.
Arizona pulled within one point shortly after Sabonis went to the bench. He would pick up his fourth foul almost immediately upon returning moments later.
Wiltjer contributed 8 of his 15 points in the second half, more than making up for his defensive shortcomings.
Just as the Wildcats started to close the gap Gonzaga's most overlooked weapon came to the rescue. Gary Bell Jr. knocked down an off-balance three late in the shot clock. On the other end he came up with a steal and drew a foul driving to the lane in transition.
The Wildcats never let the Zags pull away, however, and it made for one heck of a finish.
An 8-2 Arizona run in the final minutes tied it up at 60 all with 1:30 left. Brandon Ashley knocked down back-to-back, wide open mid range jumpers to cap the run.
There would be no more scoring in regulation. The refs didn't call a clear foul on Sabonis — maybe it was karma for letting him get away with a couple earlier — with seconds left that forced an inbounds play with 1.4 seconds to play. Wiltjer's three bounced off the back iron.
Arizona scored the first four points of the extra period. Actually, T.J. McConnell scored the first four. It took over three minutes for the Zags to score. Kevin Pangos hit a three to pull them within one point of Arizona.
Domantas Sabonis double-dribbled with the shot clock turned off, forcing the Zags into a must-foul situation.
T.J. McConnell missed the second free throw but the Wildcats somehow tipped the ball back out to him. He missed the second free throw on his next trip to the line as well. Sabonis secured the rebound and with 16 seconds left to play, the Zags looked for a three to tie things up.
Arizona did exactly what you're not supposed to do in that situation, or any situation, and fouled Byron Wesley. He went to the line for three shots.
Wesley missed the final shot on purpose, only because he missed the first two unintentionally. Final: 66-63 Arizona.