Few stages are bigger than the NCAA Tournament. Reputations are made, and broken, on this stage when the lights are brightest and the pressure is greatest. Such a context has consistently delivered college basketball fans with exhilarating moments that live long in the memory. On this night, in the Sweet 16, Jordan Mathews delivered such a moment.
Here’s how it happened:
With 1:08 on the clock and the score 58-57 in favor of West Virginia, Daxter Miles Jr. was at the line for the Mountaineers. Fortunately, Miles missed and Nigel Williams-Goss grabbed the rebound. Unfortunately, Jevon Carter and Nathan Adrian (not the Olympic swimmer) teamed up to promptly steal the ball. Fortunately, Adrian’s layup attempt got stuffed by...Josh Perkins???
Nigel Williams-Goss re-secured the ball and split Virginia’s trap (it’s amazing how quickly they set those up). Upon seeing Williams-Goss regain possession, Jordan Mathews took off down the court and flared out to the corner where he’s been deadly all year.
Running full-steam ahead in transition with Przemek Karnowski as his lead blocker and a night’s worth of frustrations that could have compelled Williams-Goss to play hero ball, the heady point guard instead saw Mathews spotting up all by himself on the wing with West Virginia’s defenders zeroing in on the ball.
For Mathews, I can’t say for sure what was going on in his mind as he sat on the left wing wide open, hoping to catch his point guard’s eye, but I imagine it went something like this: “Please give me the ball so I can sink this shot, prove my testicular fortitude, and send us to the Elite 8.”
To Mathews’ delight, I imagine, Williams-Goss fired a pass over to him from just over halfcourt. Mathews caught the sinking pass at 59.8 seconds, rose up undeterred by Elijah Macon’s outstretched arm, and never saw the ball go through the net, which is what he told reporters in the locker room after the game.
The shot went in, Mathews was fired up, his teammates were ecstatic, and Gonzaga fandom was in delirium. The Mountaineers took a timeout with 52.9 seconds left to talk things over, but the damage was done. Jordan Mathews sent the Gonzaga Bulldogs to the Elite 8. This is what Mathews transferred to Gonzaga for; he got his moment and did not miss. Hopefully, he’s not done.