Whatever the outcome - win or lose - this state has much to be proud of when it comes to athletics and West Virginia University.
West Region top seed Gonzaga (34-1), just one slip-up shy of a flawless season, meets the Mountaineers (28-8) and their hectic band of harassers inside the SAP Center.
And it was that defense that stifled the Mountaineers' multiple attempts in the closing moments, as Jevon Carter got multiple looks, none of them very good, before Gonzaga forced him to give up the ball, and WVU failed to get even a heave up in time, as the buzzer sealed the Zags' victory. Top-seeded Gonzaga beat No. 4 West Virginia 61-58 Thursday night in a tense, defensive Sweet 16 round battle. Mathews and the Bulldogs will square off against the victor of the Arizona-Xavier clash on Saturday. The Wolverines have made it to the Final Four seven times and won their only national crown in 1989. The Jesuit school, located mere miles from the SAP Center, served as the closed practice facility for the Mountaineers, which are staying just northwest of the arena toward Santa Clara. The latter knocked down all three of his triples against the Wildcats, and if he can provide the same spacing and perimeter scoring against Gonzaga, Xavier will have a legitimate shot.
After a lengthy review, WVU was awarded possession with 1:59 on the clock. I just let it go.
This is what really scares me about tomorrow and I hope I'm wrong, but Press Virginia, to me, will always fare better in the second game of a Thursday-Saturday tournament split. The length and height of Gonzaga gave West Virginia fits all night, forcing off-balance and poor shots. They're just as tough on the offensive glass, where Bob Huggins' group rebounded almost 38 percent of its misses on the season.
The West Virginia Mountaineers had the Gonzaga Bulldogs on the ropes. The rest of the team made just 10 baskets. Tyler Dorsey continued his postseason tear with a team-high 20 points, but Bell was right there with 16 points to go with 13 rebounds and two blocks in the best performance of the evening for the Ducks.
Nigel Williams-Goss answered with two free throws. But despite his four fouls, Few told his coaches he wanted Mathews in the game down the stretch because he felt he was going to make a play. First it was the Gonzaga Bulldogs to open up a lead.
The key to me is to not be afraid to drive or post up and try to get your bigs into foul trouble. Jevon Carter scored 11. Huggins called a timeout down 45-37, his team's largest deficit of the tournament. It would have been a tough shot, but there was still enough time for WVU to get two points and start sending Gonzaga to the line.
What: Gonzaga vs. West Virginia in the Sweet 16.
But the Zags came back to tie and take a three point lead when Williams-Goss was fouled and made 1 of 2 from the line. The ball took another bounce toward the baseline and an outstretched Adrian tossed it back in play. At 49-47, WVU had the lead and - finally, what seemed like momentum. Many thought Arizona would ultimately be the team to end Gonzaga's March Madness run, but now that the Wildcats are out of it. Another push tonight will take the team to another level, one seldom achieved in WVU sports. If he can be a little more efficient, the Bulldogs will simply need Przemek Karnowski (13 points) to establish himself down low while Johnathan Williams (13 points) also finds his shooting rhythm.
The trio combined for 54 of West Virginia's points against the Fighting Irish, going 17-for-29 from the floor, including 7-for-10 on 3-pointers.
Sweet 16 Preview: Gamecocks look to tame Bears in Big Apple
So things that they might have done, we don't do because they're a different team than us and they have different strengths. The Gators know all too well that Wisconsin will come at them with not only experience, but also defense and depth.