I have a cousin who lives in Wichita. I spoke to him before yesterday's game and he told me the Shockers always play great defense and hit the glass, but their field goal shooting has been very shaky all season. Wouldn't you know this ragtag bunch from rural Kansas would pick a game against the Zags to pull their best impression of the '85 Villanova team that stunned Georgetown in the NCAA final by hitting over 70 percent of their shots.Unreal.
Ok, so the Shockers didn't shoot 70 percent, but they drained seven three-pointers in a row late in the second half and made 10 of their last 15 attempts, finishing 50 percent from three and the same from inside the arc. Who told Ron Baker he was the 2013 version of Pete Maravich?!? This kid hit 30 percent of hit three's all year and out of nowhere, he goes 4 for 6 from behind the arc. Cleanthony Early hits less than 30 percent from long range for the season and he's pulling up from 30 feet and looking like Kevin Durant. Finally, Shocker reserve Jake White -- 2 of 25 from three all year -- sinks his only attempt last night and goes 2 of 3 from the field overall.
The point is, we lost to an anomaly.
Wichita State has shot 33 percent from three all year. They make an average of 6.5 a game. Last night, they had a season-high 14.The Zags, on the other hand, finished with a season-low field goal percentage of just over 35 percent for the game.
If Gary Bell Jr. doesn't injure his foot and plays the second half, our perimeter defense is better and maybe they don't get all those three's. You can make an argument for GB2 being our best defender, plus his absence on the offensive end meant the Shockers could collapse and pay more attention to Kelly and Elias.
The bottom line is that Wichita State played the kind of game against us that we used to play against higher seeded teams years ago. They played without fear and stepped up and hit the big baskets when they needed to. Let's please not jump on the negative bandwagon and overlook the great games that Olynyk, Pangos and Hart all had. What an incredibly cool way for Mike Hart to go out....14 rebounds (seven offensive), fantastic defense as always and 2 of 2 from three. We'll miss you more than you know Mike.
As bitter as this loss is, this season will ultimately be remembered for spending the final three weeks as the No. 1 team in the nation, exceptional wins over Okla. St., K-State, Baylor, St. Mary's (thrice) and at BYU. I know Coach Few is the most accessible outlet for a lot of frustration right now, but talk of firing him seems way off the mark.This is a coach who has earned the highest level of respect among his peers throughout the country. He is the reason GU is now mentioned alongside Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State as one of the premier programs in the nation. The fact that he has remained at Gonzaga this long is why we've been able to build upon our successes year after year. You cannot put a price on the continuity and stability he's brought to this program.
Finally, this season will assuredly go down as another building block to future success in March. You don't spend three weeks as the top team in both polls and not see an impact on recruiting. This is why we hear about high school phenoms like Malik Pope considering Gonzaga and talented potential transfers like Kyle Wiltjer (Kentucky) possibly landing at GU. Some, like Angel Nunez (Louisville) are already here.
Regardless of whether Kelly returns, this team is a lock for pre-season top 10 next fall. The bulk of the roster is back and Karnowski will continue to improve over the summer, giving us a force in the middle we have never really had. Our entire backcourt returns and Sam Dower will finally get the minutes he needs to put up 20/10 a game.
Take heart Zag Nation....the best is on the horizon.