SALT LAKE CITY - Leading for the first 18 minutes and holding No. 1 seed Gonzaga to 25 percent shooting had South Dakota State thinking history could be made in the first round of the NCAA West Regional.
Unfortunately, that dream began to unravel before the Jackrabbits made it to the locker room for halftime.
After a Mike Daum 3-pointer with 3:33 left in the half gave SDSU a 22-19 lead, Gonzaga scored the next seven points to lead 26-22 at halftime on its way to a 66-46 win.
Meanwhile, the Jacks’ final six possessions of the half were turnover, missed shot, two missed free throws, turnover, missed shot and shot clock violation.
"Could we have a rewind on that," SDSU coach T.J. Otzelberger said. "We didn't want our turnovers to ignite that."
Those turnovers weren't a result of sloppy play, but a physically imposing defense by the Zags that held SDSU, 18-17, to a season-low point total.
"Our defense carried us the entire game," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "I thought we did a great job on Daum."
Johnathan Williams, a 6-foot-9 forward, was assigned the task of tailing Daum and was in his face all afternoon.
Many of Daum's game-high 17 points were of the fall-away variety because of extreme pressure.
"He's pretty tough to guard, but we had a good scouting report," said Williams, who fired up the crowd with two dunks in the second half.
A layup by Chris Howell and two free throws by floor leader Michael Orris cut Gonzaga's lead to 29-26 in the opening minute of the second half.
That was as close as the Jacks would come, though.
"They were really guarding the 3-point line and making us go to the paint," Otzelberger said.
With Poland native Przemek Karnowski, all 7-1 and 300 pounds of him clogging up the middle, SDSU missed 11-of-15 layups in the second half.
Chris Howell, who blocked a Karnowski shot in the first half, was the one who struggled the most, only making one of 10 drives to the basket in the second half.
"We have elite level rim protection," Few said.
Reed Tellinghuisen had similar numbers from beyond the arc, going 1-for 10.
"The game boiled down to not making shots," Tellinghuisen said.
That is where the Jacks’ defense thrived in the first half.
With four different players scoring, SDSU jumped out to an 8-2 lead.
The Zags looked completely flustered on offense – at one point missing six shots in row and hitting only 2-of-14 first-half 3-point shots.
"We were doing a good job packing them in and forcing them to hoist something up," Daum said. "The resiliency of this team is off the chart."
With the Jackrabbit fan base making more noise than a much larger contingent from Spokane, Tellinghuisen took a charge and Ian Theissen responded with a 3-pointer for a 15-12 lead.
"After the first timeout, I knew it would be a war," Few said. "What impressed me was how organized and physically tough (SDSU) was. And, they had an elite player. I don't want to play No. 16 seeds anymore."
The 66 points by Gonzaga were the second lowest of the year for a team known more for a high-octane offense.
Addressing his team in a quiet locker room after the game, Otzelberger was effusive in his praise, especially with how the team came back from being in the Summit League basement
"Seven or eight weeks ago, people were doubting us," the first-year coach said. "For you guys to show such unbelievable character and make something special out of the season shows that when things got tough, you have grit."
Gonzaga, 33-1, returns to the Vivint Arena on Saturday to play NCAA Tournament first-timer Northwestern, who won a 68-66 thriller over Vanderbilt.
GONZAGA 66, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE 46
South Dakota State (18-17)
Mike Daum 7-16 1-2 17, Chris Howell 4-14 0-0 8, Reed Tellinghuisen 2-12 1-2 6, Michael Orris 1-3 2-4 4, Lane Severyn 1-3 1-2 4, Ian Theisen 2-3 0-1 5, Tevin King 1-5 0-0 2, Skyler Flatten 0-0 0-0 0, A.J. Hess 0-1 0-0 0, Andre Wallace 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-58 5-11 46.
Jordan Mathews 5-11 3-5 16, Josh Perkins 3-11 1-5 10, Przemek Karnowski 5-9 0-2 10, Nigel Williams-Goss 4-13 1-2 9, Johnathan Williams 3-8 0-0 6, Zach Collins 3-5 3-4 10, Silas Melson 1-4 0-0 3, Killian Tillie 1-1 0-0 2, Rui Hachimura 0-0 0-0 0, Jeremy Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Bryan Alberts 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-63 8-18 66.
Halftime – GU 26-22. 3-point goals – SDSU 5-20 (Daum 2-4, Tellinghuisen 1-10, Orris 0-1, Severyn 1-2, Theisen 1-1 King 0-1, Hess 0-1); GU 8-30 (Mathews 3-9, Perkins 3-9, Williams-Goss 0-3, Williams 0-3, Collins 1-2, Melson 1-4). Rebounds – SDSU 38 (King 9); GU 50 (Williams 14). Assists – SDSU 8 (Howell 3, Orris 3); GU 8 (Williams-Goss 4). Steals – SDSU 3 (Daum, Tellinghuisen, King); GU 5 (Perkins 2). Blocks – SDSU 4 (Daum 2, Howell 2); GU 7 (Collins 3). Turnovers – SDSU 13; GU 9. Total fouls – SDSU 17; GU 13. Fouled out – None.