BOISE, IDAHO – Zach Norvell Jr. watched Gonzaga’s greatest moments play out from the sideline last year.
This year, the redshirt freshman will be part of the highlight reel.
The shooting guard from Chicago hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 20.8 seconds left Thursday to help the fourth-seeded Bulldogs escape a major scare in the West Region with a 68-64 victory over No. 13 UNC Greensboro.
“He has a knack for that,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “When I saw him size the guy up, I knew that, A, he was probably going to shoot it, and, B, it was probably going to go in.”
Gonzaga sophomore Rui Hachimura played 19 minutes coming off the bench, finishing with four points and five rebounds. The Toyama native was 1 of 6 from the field and went 2-for-4 at the free-throw line, missing two late in the game.
“I caused trouble to my team,” Hachimura was quoted as saying, according to Kyodo News. “I was mentally weak late in the game. Now I just make myself ready for the next game.”
Gonzaga, last season’s national runner-up, trailed 64-62 with 1:48 left after squandering a 12-point lead they took early in the second half.
Josh Perkins tied it at 64-64 with a long jumper, and after Greensboro’s Francis Alonso forced up a miss, Hachimura got the rebound and worked the ball to Norvell, who spotted up from the right elbow and made the 3 for the lead.
As a highly touted recruit, Norvell chose Gonzaga (31-4) over Florida State and Georgetown, to name a few, but he hurt his knee leading up to last season. A long recovery, plus the fact that the Zags had a stockpile of talent at the guard position, turned Norvell into a bystander last year while the Bulldogs were making the program’s first run to the Final Four.
He’s been front and center 2017-18, starting most of the season and averaging 12 points a game. And even though he was 2- for-11 before his game-winner basket, he had the confidence to keep shooting.
“Every time I missed, all the guys came to me and said, ‘The next one is going in, the next one is going in,’ ” Norvell said. “So I had no choice but to make a bucket.”
Gonzaga, in its 20th straight NCAA tournament, won its first game of March Madness for the 10th straight year, though that’s not the mission anymore for the Zags. They came into the tournament playing well enough to make another run at the Final Four.
Michigan 61, Montana 47
In Wichita, Kansas, Charles Matthews had 20 points and 11 rebounds, Michigan locked down on defense and the third-seeded Wolverines beat No. 14 Montana in a plodding game.
Ohio State 81, S. Dakota State 73
In Boise, Kam Williams made a tiebreaking four-point play with 1:36 left, then added a trio of free throws after being fouled on another 3-point attempt to lift fifth-seeded Ohio State over No. 12 South Dakota State.
Houston 67, San Diego State 65
In Wichita, Rob Gray scored 39 points, including a wind-milling layup that just trickled over the rim with 1.1 seconds left that lifted sixth-seeded Houston over No. 11 San Diego State.
Villanova 87, Radford 61
In Pittsburgh, Jalen Brunson scored 16 points and top-seeded Villanova hit 14 3-pointers to rout 16th-seeded Radford.
The Wildcats (31-4) played to near-perfection for the first 30 minutes and led 44-23 at halftime.
The Highlanders (23-13) posed no threat at becoming the first 16 seed to ever knock off a No. 1 in the tournament.
Alabama 86, Virginia Tech 83
In Pittsburgh, Collin Sexton scored 21 of his team-high 24 points after halftime to lead ninth-seeded Alabama over No. 8 Virginia Tech for the Crimson Tide’s first NCAA Tournament win in a dozen years.
Florida 77, St. Bonaventure 62
In Dallas, Egor Koulechov scored 20 points and No. 6 Florida eased past St. Bonaventure, ending the 11th-seeded Bonnies’ postseason run two days after their first NCAA Tournament victory in 48 years.
Jalen Hudson scored 16 points and Chris Chiozza had 11 assists for the Gators (21-12), who have reached the Elite Eight the past five times they’ve been in the tournament.
Texas Tech 70, Stephen F. Austin 60
In Dallas, Keenan Evans scored 19 of his 23 points after halftime and third-seeded Texas Tech ended the game on a 13-2 run against 14th-seeded Stephen F. Austin.
Evans’ layup with 3:58 left put the Big 12 runner-up Red Raiders (25-9) ahead to stay..
Buffalo 89, Arizona 68
In Boise, Wes Clark scored 25 points, Jeremy Harris added 23 and No. 13 seed Buffalo pulled off the biggest upset of the opening round, rolling over No. 4 seed Arizona.
The smaller Bulls (27-8) used their quickness to zip around the Wildcats (27-8), scoring at the rim and on kickout 3-pointers.
Tennessee 73, Wright State 47
In Dallas, Admiral Schofield had 15 points and 12 rebounds as third-seeded Tennessee advanced to the second round by overwhelming No. 14 Wright State.
Lamonte Turner had 19 points and a career-high nine assists for the Volunteers (26-8), SEC co-champions in the regular season after being picked in the preseason to finish 13th in the 14-team league. They’ll next play Loyola-Chicago on Saturday.
Kentucky 78, Davidson 73
In Boise, fifth-seeded Kentucky (25-10) went 0-for-6 from behind arc after hitting a 3 in a nation-best streak of 1,047 games, but still did enough to eliminate No. 12 Davidson.
Kevin Knox scored 25 to lead Kentucky.
Davidson (21-12) made 11 3-pointers, led by six from Jon Axel Gudmundsson, who finished with 21 points.
Loyola-Chicago 64, Miami 62
In Dallas, Donte Ingram hit a 3-pointer from the March Madness logo just before the buzzer, lifting 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago over No. 6 Miami in its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1985.
Ingram’s long shot came from well above the key. The Ramblers (29-5) matched the school record for wins from their 1963 national championship team.
Loyola was boosted by a pregame prayer from its team chaplain, 98-year-old Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt.
Kansas 76, Penn 60
In Wichita, Kansas, Devonte Graham ignited sluggish Kansas midway through the first half, pouring in 29 points and lifting his top-seeded team over No. 16 Penn.
Lagerald Vick added 14 points for the Jayhawks (28-7), who trailed the Ivy League champs 21-11 with about 7 minutes left in the first half. Kansas advanced to play Seton Hall.
A.J. Brodeur had 14 points to lead the Quakers (24-9).
Duke 89, Iona 67
In Pittsburgh, Marvin Bagley III dominated in his NCAA Tournament debut, pouring in 22 points to go with seven rebounds as No. 2 Duke rolled past 15th-seeded Iona.
The Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year made 10 of 14 shots in 32 minutes and grabbed seven rebounds.
Grayson Allen scored 16 points for the Blue Devils (27-7).
Rhode Island 83, Oklahoma 78 (OT)
In Pittsburgh, E.C. Matthews hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in overtime and No. 7 Rhode Island topped dynamic scorer Trae Young and 10th-seeded Oklahoma.
The Rams (26-7) won a game in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season and will play Duke on Saturday.
Young scored 28 points on 9-for-18 shooting with six turnovers. The freshman scored 13 straight points for Oklahoma (18-14) late in regulation and made two free throws to open OT.
Seton Hall 94, NC State 83
In Wichita, Khadeen Carrington scored 26 points, Desi Rodriguez added 20 and eighth-seeded Seton Hall won a foul-filled first-round matchup against No. 9 North Carolina State.
Myles Powell added 19 points and Angel Delgado scored 13 for the Pirates (22-11), who led the entire way a year after a late meltdown cost them against Arkansas.
Allerik Freeman hit six 3s and had 36 points to lead North Carolina State (21-12).