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The Gonzaga band hit every note, and when it came time to holler the lyrics in front of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, every member hollered "Living on a Prayer," pointing to the No. 16-seeded underdogs.
It was pretty applicable.
For at least one half, at least.
The Jackrabbits were there, out in front for more than half an hour, causing Twitter feeds to get a little more dramatic, allowing the Madness that began Thursday morning across the country to wonder if the boys from Brookings could pull it off.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few thought to himself at the first media timeout in the first half, "This is going to be a war."
His No. 1-seeded Zags eventually awoke from their early-afternoon slumber and went to battle. The Bulldogs shook off one of their worst first halves of their now 33-1 season to blow by South Dakota State 66-46 at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Guards Jordan Mathews (16 points) and Josh Perkins (10 points) and big men Zach Collins (10 points) and Przemek Karnowski (10 points) led the Bulldogs to Saturday's second round, where they'll face No. 8 Northwestern.
For as unconvincing as Gonzaga was in the first half its 26 points were the second-lowest output this season the Bulldogs showed up as the No. 1 seed in the West Region during the final 20 minutes.
A 21-6 run spanning the end of the first half and first five minutes of the second half made all those early clanked shots a distant memory. Mathews hit a corner 3-pointer. Nigel Williams-Goss dropped in back-to-back buckets, and forward Johnathan Williams helped shut down South Dakota State star Mike Daum.
Jitters were on display early and not by the Jackrabbits. Gonzaga shot 32 percent from the field in the first half 18 percent below its season average and didn't take its first lead of the game until Collins pushed in a layup with 1 minute, 40 seconds left in the first half. The Bulldogs clamped down defensively after Daum (17 points) drained a 3-pointer to put the Jackrabbits up 22-19.
"It did feel like we had a bigger lead at a lot of points in that game," South Dakota State senior guard Michael Orris said.
South Dakota State went scoreless over the final 3:34.
"The coaches always preach," Mathews said, "defense travels."
It came to Salt Lake City.
Gonzaga closed the first half on a 7-0 run. And shots kept falling in the second half. South Dakota State's dream start cascaded into an ongoing Bulldogs run that put the Jackrabbits too far out of reach.
Williams (six points, 14 rebounds and two blocks) drew the assignment of Daum, and while the Jackrabbits leader reached double digits, he struggled against the long-armed Williams.
"I think everybody's always, over the years, focused on Gonzaga's offense," Few said. "And we have. We've been an elite program offensively for years. This team has been great defensively all year."
The 46 points allowed was a season low for the Zags, something Few said bodes well for his team as the tournament progresses.
Few said he's happy to be done with the 1 vs. 16 game. The pressure is compounded, he said, by facing teams that deserve more credit than being considered a team that has virtually no shot at history.
"I've served my time," he deadpanned. "I'll go ahead and land somewhere else. I'll explain that to the committee next year."
Twitter: @chriskamrani Key Player
Jordan Mathews • The 6-foot-4 senior Gonzaga guard had a game-high 16 points, including three second-half 3-pointers. After struggling late in the WCC tournament (10 points in two games), Mathews helped the Bulldogs overcome a sloppy first half offensively to down South Dakota State.
Gonzaga's defense held South Dakota State to a season-low 46 points. It also was the lowest amount an opponent has scored against Gonzaga in 34 games this season.
"That 1 vs. 16 game, someone can have that from here on out. I've served my time. I'll go ahead and land somewhere else. I'll explain that to the committee next year."
Gonzaga coach Mark Few
Gonzaga 66, S. Dakota State 46
S. DAKOTA ST. (18-17)
Daum 7-16 1-2 17, Howell 4-14 0-0 8, Orris 1-3 2-4 4, Tellinghuisen 2-12 1-2 6, Severyn 1-3 1-2 4, Theisen 2-3 0-1 5, Dykman 0-0 0-0 0, Flatten 0-0 0-0 0, King 1-5 0-0 2, Wallace 0-1 0-0 0, El Darwich 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Hess 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-58 5-11 46.
Williams 3-8 0-0 6, Karnowski 5-9 0-2 10, Williams-Goss 4-13 1-2 9, Perkins 3-11 1-5 10, Mathews 5-11 3-5 16, Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Collins 3-5 3-4 10, Tillie 1-1 0-0 2, Hachimura 0-0 0-0 0, Alberts 0-1 0-0 0, Melson 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 25-63 8-18 66.
Halftime_Gonzaga 26-22. 3-Point Goals_S. Dakota St. 5-20 (Daum 2-4, Theisen 1-1, Severyn 1-2, Tellinghuisen 1-10, Orris 0-1, King 0-1, Hess 0-1), Gonzaga 8-30 (Perkins 3-9, Mathews 3-9, Collins 1-2, Melson 1-4, Williams-Goss 0-3, Williams 0-3). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_S. Dakota St. 35 (King 9), Gonzaga 44 (Williams 14). Assists_S. Dakota St. 8 (Howell, Orris 3), Gonzaga 8 (Williams-Goss 4). Total Fouls_S. Dakota St. 17, Gonzaga 13.