Welcome to the offseason. It's really difficult to see the season end the way it did last night. Even though it is tough, I don't really feel surprised whatsoever. Gonzaga has led their fanbase on one of the most emotionally draining roller coaster rides that I can ever remember. Personally, I have basically felt every single possible emotion while following this team. There was insane amounts of hope and happiness during the Old Spice Classic, there was confusion with the Arizona loss, sprinkle in some UConn heartbreak and some Portland State/Utah disgust and you have about everything I felt in forty minutes last night.
What was supposedly Mark Few's most talented team got absolutely dismantled last night by a North Carolina Tarheel team that saved its best basketball for March and probably, for them, April. Those first four or five minutes dictated the entire game. Gonzaga was obviously very tentative which is something we have seen all year with this team even though they are so experienced. Whenever they are tentative, they turn the ball over and that is exactly what happened. North Carolina had 12 points off of turnovers before they had their first turnover. Once that happened, you could have just turned your TV off because we all knew that Gonzaga had to play damn near perfect to have a chance against the vaunted Tarheels. Give credit to the Zags however because the game was on the brink of getting way out of hand it that first half but they made a nice run at the end of the half to cut the lead down to 11 points. A lot of that credit can also go to North Carolina because they were horrendous from the free throw line, shooting around 50%.
Just to piggyback on that last thought, he is a fun stat that you don't see every day. North Carolina shot a better percentage from three-point range than they did from the free-throw line. Doesn't that make your stomach hurt a little bit? The three-point shot accounted for 33 Tarheel points and they came and such backbreaking moments. Bobby Frasor is probably the face most Gonzaga fans will remember from this game. He crushed any hope for a Gonzaga comeback when he drained back to back three-pointers right after Gonzaga had cut the lead down to 11 points with 12 and change left in the game. In the next minute and a half, North Carolina would take that 11 point margin and add on 12 more points to make the game completely out of reach.
Want more gut-wrenching stats? This game was loaded with them. An interesting comparison to make is Ira Brown and Matt Bouldin. Ira was on the court for a grand total of four minutes compared to Bouldin's 30 but manage to score as many points (seven) and had one less rebound than Matt with three total boards. They both also finished with zero assists on the evening. I am the biggest Matt Bouldin homer there is but last night was another big game for him to forget. I've looked at the box score waiting for it to change but another stat-of-note is the fact that Josh Heytvelt did not have one rebound last night. You know who is pretty pumped about that right now? Tyler Hansbrough who finished with 24 and 10. Josh may have won the battle two years ago but their is a big difference between the Preseason NIT and the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga plays extraordinary when football is going on in November but it is teams like Carolina that really turn it on when everyone is watching. They live for that.
I think that about sums it up for now. It was another impressive season for Gonzaga and head coach Mark Few. There can only be one winner and everyone goes home confused and upset and that is the stage we will be in for a while. Two Zags do deserve some credit from last night's game and that is Austin Daye and Micah Downs. Say what you want about his antics and whatever, Austin was tremendous on defense, blocking four shots and grabbing ten rebounds to go along with his ten points. Micah Downs could be my selection for player of the year for Gonzaga. He is one of those guys that I trust in big game situations. He was built for the spotlight and was excellent last night, shooting 5-7 from the field and finishing with 12 points. He filled up the stat sheet and was a big reason why the game stayed relatively close until Bobby F-ing Frasor showed up. Honorable mention to Jeremy Pargo who was good but those three first half fouls really put Gonzaga in a bad position.
Seven months separate us from another Gonzaga season. Bring on Dower, Arop, Harris, Olynyk, and Kong!