No. 1 seed Gonzaga survived a shaky start against South Dakota State to win its ninth-straight NCAA opening round game.
In a game that featured poor shooting throughout, three-point shooter Jordan Mathews led the Zags with 16 points. Mike Daum led all scorers with 17. Three other Bulldogs hit double figures, no other Jackrabbits did.
It was a terribly unattractive game in the first half, which happened to take place in the morning in Gonzaga’s time zone. Each team made just nine field goals in the first, and neither connected on over a third of their shots.
Daum, who is the nation’s second-leading scorer, (25.3 points per game) had just seven first-half points.
It wasn’t a pretty offensive first half, or game for that matter. But each team’s defense had a lot to do with that. South Dakota State packed it in defensively in an effort to take Przemek Karnowski (10 points) out of the game. It worked, and the Zags chucked up 30 threes. They hit eight of them, but only two came in the first half.
Mathews hit the Zags’ first three of the game with 13:22 left in the first.
Gonzaga’s defense clamped down in the second and started doing things like this:
That was one of seven Gonzaga blocks.
The second half was all Zags. After a first half in which they shot just 31 percent from the field, the Zags connected on 47.1 percent in the second. Their more up-tempo style took hold and got South Dakota State out of a rhythm. And a mid-half injury to point guard Michael Orris (four points) didn’t help the Jackrabbits’ cause.
A Johnathan Williams (six points, 14 rebounds) fast-break dunk with 12:43 to play gave the Zags a double-digit lead which they would not relinquish for the duration. With five minutes left, that lead stretched to 20.
South Dakota State’s season ends at 18-17. Gonzaga, now 33-1, moves on to face the winner of No. 8 Northwestern vs. No. 9 Vanderbilt on Saturday in Salt Lake.