The Gonzaga Bulldogs funky and absurd 2015-16 season came to a crashing halt after painful miscues in the second half sent the Zags to their grave against Syracuse, 63-60.
Syracuse is going to the Elite Eight, and Gonzaga is going home. This hurts, and there is no other way to say it.
We can focus on all the negatives. We can focus on the fact that the Zags turned the ball over 15 times in the game. We can talk about how the Zags inbounded the ball in a way that drew up eerie similarities to that horrible game against UCLA. We can talk about how the Zags had a 10-second call in crunch time. We can talk about how the final play that was drawn up resulted in Trevor Cooney legitimately stealing the ball and basically sealing the collapse.
We can talk about all of that. And someday, we will. But the emotions only have so much energy in a day. So let's talk about the game.
Gonzaga opened up completely hot, and then got completely confounded by the Syracuse Orange zone. The Zags took a one-point lead into halftime. Syracuse came out hot-ish, and Gonzaga missed their first five field goal attempts of the second half. Things were looking mighty grim.
But then the team adjusted. They started to shovel the ball to Domantas Sabonis down low. Kyle Wiltjer kept stepping back and hitting threes and also hit the paint like a madman. Gonzaga pulled a lead and looked on their way to victory.
But the second half of the Sweet 16 has no rules. It doesn't care about leads and things such as that. The Orange hit some big shots, and they were assisted by what can only be characterized as painful mistakes by the Zags to get back into the game, and ultimately, win it. Josh Perkins final desperation drive was blocked, and that was it.
Wiltjer and Sabonis were bright spots like always. Wiltjer finished with 23 points, and Sabonis finished with 17 points. The Zags defense held up its end of the bargain, holding Syracuse to 36.1 percent from the floor. But as was the tendency this season, offensive execution failed the Zags, and like they did so many times before, they lost this game.
I know we are all fired up. But let's keep it civil in the comments. This game was a heartbreaker. But this team also broke our hearts multiple times in the season. At the beginning of March Madness, I told myself that any win they got was going to be icing on the cake. Well, this team iced a couple of wins on it.
Again. Emotions run strong. Before you hit post, make sure you are saying what you actually think you want to say.