Northwestern's players and coaches celebrated their 68-66 win over Vanderbilt in their locker room, turning it into a mini water park after coach Chris Collins arrived.
But once they returned to the team hotel Thursday, their plan was to get serious.
"Eat. Shower. Get some food. Watch games. Get in bed," NU athletic director Jim Phillips said. "Chris talked to the players about being businesslike. They don't have the experience, so he is leading the way."
Up next in the second round at 4:15 p.m. Saturday (CBS-2) is Northwestern's greatest challenge of the season, at least on paper. Gonzaga, which dispatched No. 16 seed South Dakota State 66-46 with a dominant second half, is 33-1 and the top seed in the West Region, rated fourth overall in the field by the NCAA tournament selection committee.
The top team the Wildcats have faced this season is Butler, rated No. 13 overall. (Butler won in the final second Nov. 16 on a step-back jumper by freshman Kamar Baldwin.)
"Right now we are playing for our lives," senior forward Sanjay Lumpkin said. "We want to wear these jerseys as long as possible. Especially in my last year, I'm wearing this thing until someone takes it from me."
Collins certainly feels that urgency.
He said of him and his staff: "We have no time to sit back on the couch and say, 'Hey, I'll put some games on.' No, you have to have 48 hours to get ready for a team that has been as dominant as any in the country. We have to put a game plan together."
Northwestern will strive to get Vic Law going. The sophomore forward from St. Rita went 1-for-8 from the field Thursday and missed the front end of a one-and-one with 53 seconds left.
"I missed it short," Law said. "I'll get (it) back against Gonzaga."
|Photos from Northwestern's NCAA tournament game vs. Vanderbilt on March 16, 2017, in Salt Lake City, Utah.|
Gonzaga player from Utah chooses LDS mission, misses team’s NCAA Tournament run
SALT LAKE CITY - It's a moment most parents would dream of, and the chance to watch his son play in a NCAA Tournament is almost too good for Utah's Eric Wade to imagine.
"I'm so excited," Wade said, while walking into Vivint Smart Home Arena Thursday morning.
Wade's son, Jesse, committed to Gonzaga University two years ago, when he was named Mr. Basketball as the best high school player in the state of Utah.
Salt Lake City is hosting two of the top four teams in the country during the opening two rounds of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, and one of those teams is Gonzaga.
But as Wade and his younger son, Josh, walked into the arena Thursday, they had no expectation of watching Jesse play.
"He’s serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the France, Lyon Mission,” Eric Wade said of his son. "It was something that was important to him ever since he was a little kid."
Although it's common for athletes in Utah to take time off to go on mission, Gonzaga is a Catholic university. In fact, no recruit in the program's history has deferred enrollment.
"We are so appreciative for Coach Few for believing in Jesse, and planning on him being gone for a couple years," Eric Wade said of Gonzaga Coach Mark Few.
Gonzaga struggled from the field early in their first round match-up, but came on strong in the second half for the win.
Walking off the court, Coach Few noted, “We could have used Jessie today, he can shoot a three-pointer from 30 feet away."
Luckily, the Zags won't have to wait long to see him in a uniform. Wade will be back from his mission in France in 25 days. However, he won't suit up for a game until next season at the earliest.
“He’s going to be a really, really good player for us," Few said.
Gonzaga’s three transfers make tourney debut in style with victory
SALT LAKE CITY – All three of Gonzaga’s transfers – Nigel Williams-Goss, Jordan Mathews and Johnathan Williams – won their first game in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday against the South Dakota State.
It was the first time Williams-Goss, a redshirt junior from Washington, and Williams, a redshirt junior from Missouri, have played in the tournament.
“It’s a blessing,” Williams said after the Zags topped SDSU 66-46. “It’s a crazy feeling.”
It was the second appearance in the tournament for senior guard Mathews, who transferred from California in 2016. Last year, the Golden Bears traveled to Spokane for the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Hawaii. Cal fell to the Rainbow Warriors 77-66 behind Mathews’ game-high 23 points.
On Thursday, Mathews led his team again with 16 points for the Zags, hitting 5-of-11 shots from the field.