Gonzaga beats West Virginia, advances to Elite Eight to face Xavier

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Top-seeded Gonzaga moved within one game of the Final Four with a 61-58 victory over West Virginia on Thursday in the West regional Sweet 16 at SAP Center.

Actually, the Zags didn’t so much move within a victory of their first-ever trip to the national semifinals.

They clawed and scrapped and clung and pushed in a brutal game — the exact game West Virginia loves to play.

“Rock fight,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “However you want to describe it.

“Those are two really, really tough teams, two really physical teams that laid it out there on the line. And there were big shots being made right and left, and fortunately, we made the two big plays at the end.”

There were 51 fouls, which caused the game to last approximately 2{ hours — and that was without overtime.

The biggest shot came off the fingertips of Gonzaga guard Jordan Mathews, who drained a 3-pointer from the left wing with 57 seconds remaining.

“I just let it go,” said Mathews, a transfer from Cal. “I just didn’t think about it. I just shot it, and I didn’t see it go in. But I heard it.”

Mathews and fellow guards Nigel Williams-Goss, Josh Perkins and Silas Melson struggled to find their rhythm against West Virginia’s relentless pressure and physical defense.

They combined to make just 8 of 29 shots. But center Przemek Karnowski and forward Johnathan Williams scored 13 points each. Williams, a deft ballhandler, also helped break the Mountaineers’ full-court press.

“I wasn’t really frustrated, it was just the type of game,” Mathews said. “We’ve never come across that. It wasn’t frustration; it was confusion trying to figure it out.”

The Zags (35-1) will play Xavier on Saturday for the West regional title. Xavier finished its Sweet 16 game on a 9-0 run in the final 2 minutes to knock off Arizona, 73-71.

The fourth-seeded Mountaineers (28-9) were awful offensively but in the game until the end because they blocked seven shots, forced 16 turnovers and grabbed 20 offensive rebounds.

“You tell me another team in the country who can shoot 26 percent from the field against a No. 1 seed, 21 percent from 3 (point range), and still could have, should have won the game,” Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said.

“I think that says a lot about what kind of guys we have.”

Trailing most of the game, the Mountaineers grabbed a three-point lead on Jevon Carter’s basket with 1:47 left.

Two free throws by Williams-Goss pulled the Zags within one point. Then West Virginia’s Daxter Miles Jr. missed two free throws.

Mathews’ 3-pointer, which came at the end of a wild sequence, gave Gonzaga a 60-58 advantage.

West Virginia’s Tarik Phillip missed a floater in the lane, and Gonzaga’s Silas Melson grabbed the rebound. He was fouled immediately and made one of two, giving West Virginia a chance to tie.

But Carter missed two 3-pointers in the final seconds. The Mountaineers retained possession but failed to get a third attempt off in time.

“All year, we’ve been banking on our defense, our defense, our defense,” Few said. “Our defense stepped up and got it done there at the end.

“So we are absolutely elated to continue to be playing, and we’re 40 minutes away from a Final Four, which was something we set our sights on at the start of the year.”