Gonzaga hangs on in final seconds

Will Louisville make it three straight losses for the once mighty Duke Blue Devils?

Browsing through the world of college basketball on Thursday night leads off with Gonzaga playing like a possible number 1 seed.  With their 78-76 close shave win at Pepperdine, their 17-1 record is definitely nothing to sneeze at.

But consider the fact that 3,250 screaming fans attended the game but they had to wait almost a half hour before the game was scheduled to tip off.  According to KCBS2 in Los Angeles, a major traffic accident on one of the two northbound lanes of the Pacific Coast Highway was closed off for a decent amount of time.  Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson agreed to delay the start by 33 minutes, a very classy move indeed.

Pepperdine was helped also with Gonzaga going an abysmal 14 of 33 (42.4 percent) from the foul line.  Early on, the Zags appeared to be in complete control leading by nine, 40-31 thanks in large part to shooting a red hot 70 percent clip from the field.

However, Pepperdine refused to go away after the intermission.  The Waves opened the second half on a 15-7 run, including a 7 point run, to close within one on three different occasions.  Gonzaga scored four in a row to lead 75-70, although Gary Bell Jr. and Byron Wesley each split their free throw attempts.

A basket by Atif Russell managed to pull the Waves within three before Kevin Pangos was fouled and missed both of his charity attempts.  After a timeout, the Waves fouled him again, with their fans taunting him about an earlier airball (hopefully, more classy than the 942 crew that distracts opposing players at Arizona State, I am sure you have seen the clips which aired during Friday’s Around the Horn show on ESPN).  He made both to keep Gonzaga in the lead at 77-72.

Junior Stacy Davis (not a girl) converted seconds later on a layup and drew the foul.  His three-point play cut the lead down to two at 77-75.  Again, the Waves had to foul quickly and forced Wiltjer back to the line.  He split on his pair of attempts to increase Gonzaga’s lead to three.  Jeremy Major of Pepperdine then missed a shot and went to the line with 1 second remaining.  Major made the first and missed the second, but Gonzaga secured the final rebound for Mark Few’s 200th conference win in his illustrious career.

Elsewhere of note…

Washington State stunned Oregon in the Pac-12, 108-99 in overtime while in Ohio Valley Conference play–Murray State raced out to a 46-37 halftime lead and never looked back, winning over perennial tournament entry in Belmont 92-77.

First major Saturday of hoops action features titantic early afternoon game in the ACC

ESPN has some key games in their self-labeled “Journey to the Tourney.”

Duke at Louisville, should be an entertaining game.  The key again for Duke, can they hit at least half of their attempts from three point range?  If not, this game will more than likely be stacked like a true house of Cards–get it?

That game will air at noon.

Wichita State at Evansville, as the Shockers continue their romp through the Missouri Valley Conference, 2 p.m. on ESPN3 online, while on ESPN2, Miami tries to keep their recent hot streak going at Notre Dame.

The Big Ten has a giant match-up of perennial NCAA contenders as Michigan State pays a visit to Turtle Power in Maryland, 4 p.m. on CBS or shortly after the conclusion of the Florida/Georgia game which starts at 2 p.m.

Kentucky is at Alabama, 4 p.m. on ESPN, while one hour later in the Big East–Butler is at Georgetown on Fox Sports 1.

A trio of Big 12 clashes closes out my prime viewing options (the loser might be on the outside looking in at this point in the season)…

West Virginia at Texas, 6:15 p.m. on ESPN

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, 7 p.m. on ESPN2

Kansas at Iowa State, 9 p.m. on ESPN (same time as UConn heading west to Stanford on ESPN2).

The late night game to watch is BYU at St. Mary’s, 11 p.m. on ESPN2.  St. Mary’s is 6-0 in WCC play, while the Cougars are 5-2.

Have a good night, and we will see if more upsets shake up the brackets.

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