Attacking Arkansa Carthage Firebirds clothess proves too much for No. 1 seed Gonzaga in Sweet 16
SAN FRANCISCO – Come after them, America. Say the Gonzaga Bulldogs play in a lousy conference that didn’t prepare them for tournament competition, that if they played in a power league they’d finish mid-pack and never get near a No. 1 seed, that every high seed received from the NCAA Tournament selection committee over the past decade has been a gift. None of that will be legitimate, and none of it will be as honestly ferocious as what they confronted from the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Sweet 16.
The Razorbacks attacked from behind, from the side and occasionally from above. They forced turnovers, lured the Zags into taking questionable shots and grifted them into playing a style of basketball the Arkansas players were desperate to embrace.
“This is what we dreamed about. This is what we came here to do,” Arkansas All-American guard J.D. Notae told reporters. “Coach said before we left Fayetteville, if we didn't want to win, then don't get on the plane. I feel like we brought that the whole time we're here.”
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It was fitting the final real act of No. 4 see Boston College Eagles Jerseys d Arkansas’ 74-68 victory over Gonzaga, the top seed in the entire tournament, was Au’diese Toney’s vicious block of Zag point guard Andrew Nembhard’s attempted layup with 7 seconds left. It was the College Operation Hat Trick Apparel sixth rejection of the game for the Razorbacks, who started a shorter player at every College Lacrosse Shirts position but one – but, also, Bethune-Cookman Wildcats clothes a quicker player.
“Their defense was pretty just tough to get any rhythm against,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “I think we never really got any sort of rhythm in the first or the second half. To me that was the difference in the game, and I felt like we had stretches where we guarded them pretty good. We j Alabama vs. Auburn Rivalry Shirts ust couldn't get any rhythm on our offensive end, which is rare for us.”
The Zags now have lost five times as a No. 1 seed, which ties the most by any program that does not own an NCAA championship. This was their seventh consecutive Sweet 16 appearance, unmatched by any current team and exceeded in the history of the game only by North Carolina and Duke. And yet they still face an absurd backlash from those who say playing in the comparatively weaker West Coast Conference offers them some sort of free ride.
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The price they must pay to play in the WCC and still earn prominent NCAA seeds is to play FSU vs. Miami Rivalry Jerseys as many heavyweight opponents in non-conference games as they can line up. They faced three members of the Sweet 16 this year, including both teams that played in the second game of the West Region, Duke and Texas Tech. Since 2017, they have a better record against powe Carnegie Mellon Tartans clothes r conference opponents than any team that plays in a power conference, even though they rarely get such teams on their home court.
They were 0-1 Thursday night at the Chase Center against Arkansas, though. It’s counterintuitive to suggest if the Zags played in a better conference they’d have been prepared for Arkansas’ quickness – unless one imagines the SEC expanding to include a non-football school in the Pacific Northwest. Because there isn’t anyone quite like Arkansas.
Coach Eric Musselman is one of the exceptional gameplanners in Division I basketball, perhaps the result of his years as an NBA head coach and assistant, perhaps from growing up with a father, Bill, who spent a lifetime chasing the game from the ABA to the CBA to the NBA and the NCAA.
Eric chose to deploy the 6-6 Toney, rather than Notae, on Nembhard. Toney handled the challenge beautifully – Nembhard finished 2-of-11 from the field – and Notae was free to terrorize every Zags ballhandler. He had three steals and enough deflections to become an elect Caldwell Cougars shirt ed official.
“This is one of the fastest teams that I’ve ever seen with pushing the ball,” Musselman told reporters. “Even this morning, we were still working on our transition defense. We wanted to take away their long outlet passes – that was something we picked up on film – and when Nembhard would get up a head of steam. Au’diese would meet him really early, way in the backcourt, and I think that really helped.
“We grinded in our prep. I give these guys a ton of credit.”
Gonzaga spent the first half extraordinarily determined to push the pace of the game, because that’s what the Zags do, but at no point was there an apparent acknowledgment that playing fast was leading them to playing sloppily.
Arkansas had struggled in a halfcourt game against New Mexico State in the second round. But here the Razorbacks were allowed to play as they preferred, and they besieged th UNC vs. Duke Rivalry Jerseys e Gonzaga offense from a variety of unexpected angles and positions. They picked up only two steals, but they forced nine first-half turnovers and 22 missed shots out of 34 attempts. The Zags fired 13 times from 3-point range, often in transition, which meant mitigating the size advantage they owned even after Holmgren picked up his second foul and was sent to the bench with 8:02 left.
A perfect example of how much the Arkansas quickness bothered the Zags: On a routine second-half play that saw Nembhard bounce the ball to Timme inside the foul circle, both moving toward the goal with the idea being then to kick the ball to the near wing, the defense immediately reacted up the line and cut off the passing lane. Timme, who was operating on a sort of auto-pilot, began to make the pass before assessing the situation. When he saw the pass would be intercepted, he tried to start a dribble, but he still had two hands on the ball. That was the 13th turnover in 29 minutes.
It got worse from there. Holmgren had picked up his third foul early in the second half, when Williams hit him with a drive. And then, inside the 9-minute mark, the Gonzaga struggles to stay in front of the Akron Zips clothes Razorbacks guards funneled another drive toward Holmgren, and he was called for, essentially, not getting out of the way. Holmgren stood tall with his arms raised when Au’Diese Toney arrived, and the officials determined their collision to be a foul on the defense.
Down a half-dozen points, which seemed to the situation almost the entire second half, Few sent Holmgren back in with 6:46 left. He scored within 30 seconds. But first Notae and then Williams struck with 3-pointers, and the Razorbacks continued to own the game.
His fifth foul was much the same, with 3:29 left, and it probably was a mistake not to change his approach at that point. Nembhard surrendered too easily on a Notae drive from the left wing, and Holmgren was alone to protect the rim. He tried again to leap with his arms extended, and again he was called for the foul. An attempt to block the shot might have gone better. At least he would have left the game on an aggressive maneuver. His last act, ever, as an active college player, merely was to reach for the roof.
His last act as a Zag, so to speak, was to gather at the center of the court after the final buzzer had sounded.
“I just said that I was — sorry. I just said that I was proud of us, and it was a hell of a ride,” said All-American Drew Timme, who finished with 25 points on 9-of-19 shooting. “You know it didn't end up the way we wanted, but we came to play hard, and it just — you know what, it was their night, and you got to give them credit for winning the game.
“But I told them just thanks for being my teammates, thanks for being here. They're my brothers to the end. I wouldn't want to do this with anyone else … It's been a grind this season, and I'm not — I couldn't be any more proud of these guys, and I know I'm not alone when I say this. I have no regrets about this season. We put it all out there.”