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Wichita State shocks No. 1 seed Gonzaga

The SportsXchange

SALT LAKE CITY -- They're the Shockers, all right.

Ron Baker and Cleanthony Early scored 16 points apiece and Fred VanVleet hit a huge 3-pointer and clutch free throws to lift No. 9 seed Wichita State to a shocking 76-70 upset victory over No. 1-seeded Gonzaga on Saturday night.

"This is incredible for our team. We came together down the stretch and pulled the upset off," Baker said. "The coaches and the team, we decided to pull together and we did. This feeling is unimaginable."

Tell the Bulldogs about it.

The Shockers led by as many as 13 points in the first half, but found themselves behind by eight points midway through the second half before rallying to knock off the nation's top-ranked team.

With the stunner, the aptly nicknamed Shockers (28-8) made it to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006. Wichita State, which pounded Pittsburgh 73-55 in its opener Thursday, will face a lower-seeded team in the next round -- either 12th-seeded Ole Miss or No. 13 La Salle.

"It's a wonderful moment for our program and our city," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. "This is the epitome of a team. They don't care about individual stats. It's all about us winning."

For Gonzaga, it's all about coping with a tournament run that abruptly halted four rounds earlier than they hoped and that many expected because of their 32 wins and high seed.

Center Kelly Olynyk scored 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds and Kevin Pangos added 19 points, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Bulldogs from becoming the first No. 1 to fall in the 2013 tournament.

"It's a tough, tough, tough way to end a fabulous season," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "But Wichita State deserves a ton of credit."

Gonzaga, which struggled before eliminating No. 16 Southern on Thursday, hasn't made it to the Sweet 16 since 2006.

"These guys, I told them after the game, had an unbelievable year, one for the ages," Few said. "To have the best season in the history of basketball at our school and kind of capture the attention of a nation, it was one hell of a ride. We had a lot of fun."

Not counting Saturday, of course.

Olynyk and Pangos missed 3-pointers -- and Pangos and Drew Barham missed three free throws -- in the final half-minute that could have made for an even more furious finish.

VanVleet hit four free throws and Armstead sank a pair of foul shots in the 40 seconds to clinch the win up for the Shockers.

But it took one terrific comeback.

Baker sparked Wichita State's second-half surge with a 3-pointer to make it 49-44 with just over 11 minutes to go.

Things got downright wild in the final six minutes. The teams went back-and-forth, including a stretch of five 3-point swishes in succession.

Carl Hall (10 points) hit a jumper after 3-pointers by Baker, Early and Tekele Cotton to give Wichita State a 62-61 lead with 3 1/2 minutes remaining.

Wichita State had a one-point lead when miscommunication on an inbound pass resulted in a Gonzaga turnover. Forward Elias Harris accidentally threw it to David Stockton, who caught the pass and walked out of bounds, thinking he was going to be inbounding the ball.

It was just one of many mistakes for the West Coast Conference champions who melted under the glaring national spotlight.

"It was a heck of a year," Harris said. "We'll look back and savor this year and cherish it and understand how great it was. But it's pretty rough right now because we definitely came up short of where we were looking for."

The opportunistic Missouri Valley Conference runners-up, using a press, various defensive looks and hitting big shot after big shot, made certain of that.

Baker and VanVleet followed Gonzaga's inbounding miscue with two of Wichita State's 14 3-pointers to put the Shockers up 70-65.

VanVleet's free throws with 38.6 seconds remaining gave Wichita State a seven-point lead. Hall and VanVleet both hit two freebies in the final 16 seconds.

Moments later, the Shockers were bouncing around the court in celebration while the band and fans sang, "We're going to L.A.!"

Harris added 12 points and seven rebounds, while Mike Hart pulled down 14 boards for Gonzaga.?Starter Gary Bell Jr. didn't play for most of the second half after injuring his foot.

VanVleet, a reserve guard, finished with 13 points for the Shockers, whose bench outscored Gonzaga's 34-7. Wichita State shot 50 percent to Gonzaga's 35.6 percent.

Wichita State came out strong in the first half, and especially from deep range. The Shockers hit 7 of 15 3-pointers, with six different players connecting from outside, to go ahead by as many as 13 points.

Baker's 3-pointer put Wichita State ahead 26-13 with 7:18 left in the first half before Gonzaga got going. Wichita State's Jake White ended the half with a tip-in at the buzzer for a 36-31 halftime advantage.

NOTES: Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall has faced Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament before. In 2005, his Winthrop squad took a two-point halftime lead over the third-seeded Bulldogs but ended up losing 74-64. ... This is Malcolm Armstead's only season with Wichita State. He previously played for Chipola Junior College, then at Oregon for two years before heading to Wichita for his senior season. ... Gonzaga coach Mark Few had to give a reporter a quick history lesson. Asked about the Zags' tradition of good guards, it was suggested that the run began in 2000 with Matt Santangelo. The school's most famous almuni -- John Stockton -- became a Hall of Famer while playing for 13 seasons at EnergySolutions Arena. Stockton's son, David, is a sophomore on Gonzaga's team. Few said getting strong guards is "an easy sell" for him. "It goes all the way back to John," Few said of the 1983 Gonzaga grad. "We have had a tremendous run of guards at Gonzaga and I think they see our style of play and they see we develop them."
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