You have to love the NCAA Tournament. As far as I'm concerned, no other sporting event in the world is more unpredictable. It looked like Gonzaga was going to run away with a win against Florida State on Friday in Buffalo, instead the Bulldogs were put to the test by the Seminoles in the second half (click here for the game story).
The first half was unbelievable. Matt Bouldin even told me after the game that he wished the Bulldogs could start every game like that. Gonzaga dominated every aspect of the game, especially defensively. Florida State, who held opponents to a nation's best 37% from the field during the regular season, were force fed a dose of their own medicine. The Zags allowed just six field goals before the break, keeping the Seminoles to just 21% shooting. That led to a 35-19 lead for the Bulldogs at halftime.
The second half was a much different story. Gonzaga, who looked unstoppable before the intermission, looked sloppy after the break. They turned the ball over 12 times and that allowed Florida State to rally back into the game. The 'Noles can also thank Deividas Dulkys for chipping away at the lead. He scored 11 straight points late in the game, bringing FSU within four points. Brett Allbery, the photographer who is with me, said Dulkys was trying to do his best Stephen Curry impression. Luckily, the Bulldogs were able to weather the storm. Kelly Olynyk even admitted to me that his heart started pounding a lot faster late in the game. I'm glad to hear I wasn't the only one.
It's amazing how the tournament works. When Florida State started making their run, the entire building (mostly Syracuse fans waiting for their game) started rooting for the Seminoles. Everyone at the HSBC Arena (except for the Gonzaga faithful) started doing the tomahawk chop with the FSU fans (even though they had no ties to Florida State). I'm not really sure why that happens, but it does (usually random fans start rooting for the upset).
Robert Sacre deserves a ton of credit. I don't know how well you could see it on TV, but Sacre was pounding on both ends of the floor and he was forced to do that for 30 minutes. After the game, Robert told me that every game is like the championship to him. He's going to leave it on the floor every second of every game the rest of the way (although he said he could have played better in the second half). Sacre finished with 13 points and nine rebounds and was able to stay out of foul trouble despite an extremely physical game.
Matt Bouldin didn't do much in the game early, but he came out with fire after the half. Matt chipped in 14 of his game-high 17 points after the half. He appeared pretty frustrated in the opening stanza, even tossing up a pretty hideous air ball. I watched Bouldin in the pregame warmup (he didn't miss a shot) and had a feeling he would get back on track at some point (pictures of the warmup 1 2). He is a major reason the Bulldogs are alive to see Syracuse in the second round on Sunday. Game time is scheduled for 9:10am (PT).
By the end of the game, Gonzaga's starters looked pretty exhausted. There's good reason for that. The five players who started the game carried the entire load. Matt Bouldin (39 minutes), Steven Gray (38 minutes), Demetri Goodson (32 minutes), Elias Harris (34 minutes), and Robert Sacre (30 minutes) scored every single point for the Bulldogs (the bench didn't even attempt a field goal). Hopefully, the guys won't be exhausted for the second round battle against top-seeded Syracuse.
As for Goodson, he got hurt during the game. I saw the trainers working on his shoulder during the first timeout. He played the rest of the game (obviously), but he had a huge bag of ice on his shoulder after the contest. Meech told me in the locker room that he originally thought he broke his shoulder. With that said...Demetri thinks he'll be just fine for Sunday's battle.
I also wanted to share a couple more pictures that I snapped during the game: first half action, the Sacre/Alabi battle, second half action, Spike amping up the crowd, Matt Bouldin icing the game with free throws, and a behind-the-scenes shot of the Bulldogs walking off the court after the win.
My friend Sean Widmer also snapped a shot of me hard at work on media row.
The Bulldogs will hit the floor here at HSBC Arena again tomorrow for a closed to the public practice. They will meet with the media again, including a press conference that we will stream live on KREM.com at 12:10pm (PT). Syracuse will follow Gonzaga with a press conference (that we'll also stream on KREM.com) at 12:55pm (PT). We'll have reports on both teams on KREM 2 News at 10pm and 11pm.
I want to remind you again that you can follow me on Twitter. I am constantly updating all the latest from Buffalo (on and off the court).
I mentioned in my previous blog that I wanted to enjoy a Friday fish fry here in Buffalo (it's a tradition here). It worked out for me today. We didn't have time to eat before we arrived at the arena, but we lucked out anyway. They treated the media to a fish fry for dinner. I think the fish would have been better at a real restaurant, but I'll never complain about a free meal.
That's all the time I have tonight. I'll check back in with you again tomorrow!