Gonzaga holds off Northwestern amid controversy

SALT LAKE CITY — Top-seeded Gonzaga fought off a wild Northwestern comeback for a 79-73 victory Saturday night with help from an untimely technical foul on Wildcats coach Chris Collins.

Gonzaga (34-1) will face West Virginia (28-8) in the third round Wednesday at San Jose.

Northwestern trimmed a 22-point deficit to five and had the ball when Gonzaga’s Zach Collins reached up through the basket to reject Dererk Pardon’s shot with 4:54 left.

There was no call, and Collins, jawing with the officials all day, ran onto the court and was slapped with a technical foul.

Gonzaga (34-1) will face West Virginia in the third round on Thursday.

Nigel Williams-Goss made both free throws, and eighth-seeded Northwestern (24-12), in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history, never got closer.

Zags coach Mark Few wasn’t pinning the win on that single turn of events. But he more than understood the emotion of the moment.

“You guys feel it and see it when it comes to these games,” he said. “You lose, your season’s over. You win, in Northwestern’s case, it’s probably the best thing they’ve done in the history of the school. You react spontaneously, and stuff happens.”

Shortly after the game, the NCAA issued a statement saying officials missed the violation under Rule 9, Section 15 of its men’s basketball rules book.

“Article 2.a.3 states that basket interference occurs when a player reaches through the basket from below and touches the ball before it enters the cylinder,” the NCAA said in the statement. “Replays showed that the Gonzaga defender violated this rule, which should have resulted in a scored basket by Northwestern.”

Williams-Goss led the Zags (34-1) with 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Collins and Jordan Mathews had 14 points each.

Bryant McIntosh, who hit the go-ahead free throws in Northwestern’s opening-round win, had 20 for the Wildcats and Vic Law had 18.