- Robbi Pickeral, College Basketball
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SALT LAKE CITY -- A 16-seed still has never beaten a No. 1 in the NCAA tournament but barely.
Southern, winner of the SWAC, became the latest Little Team That Almost Could, staying in striking distance for 38 minutes Thursday before Gonzaga survived at Energy Solutions Arena.
A quick look at Gonzaga's 64-58 win:
Turning point: Southern kept things interesting early, shooting 47.8 percent in a first half that saw the lead change three times.
Gonzaga finally appeared to pull away with a 11-0 run roughly midway through the second half that included eight points from 7-footer Kelly Olynyk until the Jaguars erased it with a 13-2 Derick Beltran-led run of their own, tying the game 54-54 with 4:08 left on two free throws from Brandon Moore. After a 3-pointer, followed by a 3, followed by a 3, Beltran cut Southern’s deficit to 59-58 with two free throws. But Zags guard Kevin Pangos hit a 3 to give his team what finally became enough of a cushion.
Key player(s): Olynyk finished with 21 points for Gonzaga, and Pangos added 16.
Beltran scored 21 for Southern.
Key stat: Southern made 10 of 23 3-pointers (43.5 percent) to keep things close.
Up next: The top-seeded Zags will play No. 9 seed Wichita State in the round of 32 on Saturday. Game times have not yet been announced.