SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Jordan Mathews scored 16 points to help Gonzaga slowly pull away from South Dakota State for a 66-46 victory and avoid the first 1 vs. 16 upset in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
It looked possible for a while.
The Jackrabbits (18-17), champions of the Summit League, led for the first 17 minutes of Thursday’s game in the West region and stayed in range for most of the game.
They did it without a breakout game from Mike Daum. The nation’s second-leading scorer finished 7 for 16 from the floor with 17 points — more than eight below his average.
Daum did a nice job on Gonzaga’s 7-foot-1 center, Przemek Karnowski, holding him to four points over the first 32 minutes.
But Karnowski , who finished with 10 points, scored three straight buckets for the Bulldogs (33-1) to help them expand the lead to 20 with 5 minutes left, and it was over.
Gonzaga became the 129th straight No. 1 seed to beat a 16 since the bracket was expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
STOPPER: The Bulldogs draped 6-9 forward Johnathan Williams on Daum for most of the game, and he kept the South Dakota State big man in check. Williams finished with six points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, though his biggest contributions didn’t result in stats.
PLAYING FOR BILLY: South Dakota State guard Michael Orris made this game a tribute to his brother, Billy, who died in a motorcycle accident in 2015. Orris, who graduated from Northern Illinois, had another year of eligibility and extended his career with the Jackrabbits. Orris went out with a leg cramp in the second half but returned. He finished with four points and three assists.
FRESHMAN CONTRIBUTION: While the Zags were struggling to find their footing in the first half, freshman Zach Collins kept them in it. Collins had nine of his 10 points in the first half.
UP NEXT: Gonzaga plays the winner of Thursday afternoon’s 8-9 matchup between Northwestern and Vanderbilt.
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