SALT LAKE CITY -- Down a hallway here at EnergySolutions Arena, somebody in the Gonzaga entourage mouthed the operative four words of Zag Nation on this harrowing afternoon:
"We ain't the one."
No, they ain't the one. Through 114 games and 29 seasons of the NCAA men's basketball tournament featuring No. 1 seeds against 16s, the scoreboard is now 114-0, favor of the big boys.
But only barely, as the top-seeded Zags were taken to the wire by an upstart Southern University team, Gonzaga finally surviving 64-58 because its guards came through down the stretch.
Kelly Olynyk had 21 points with a determined second half, and Kevin Pangos added 16. But, afterward, Pangos didn't want to entertain any notion of what the national ridicule would have been like had the Zags (32-2) not moved on to face Wichita State on Saturday.
"I don't think about that," he said firmly. "It doesn't matter to me. We care about what happens in this locker room."
Several feet away sat Elias Harris, who was hounded into a 2-for-10 shooting game by a Southern man-to-man defense that tried to deny everything inside.
"I don't care how we got it," he said of the victory. "Nobody's gonna ask us in a
They got it because Pangos and running mate Gary Bell Jr. were clutch in the final moments.
"Can you believe those two are only sophomores?" asked Gonzaga coach Mark Few on the interview podium.
It was a game in which Gonzaga three times seemed on the brink of separating from the Jaguars but never could make it stick.
Gonzaga led only 34-31 at half, and after establishing Olynyk in the second half, seemed to have gained a handle on it midway through, leading 52-41. But the Zags endured four empty possessions and Southern (23-10) kept coming.
With 4:08 left, forward Brandon Moore downed two free throws to tie it at 54, completing a 13-2 run.
When it counted, the game belonged to the Gonzaga guards. With 3:18 left and the game tied at 56, Bell circled back on top and buried a 3-pointer to give the Zags the lead for good.