SALT LAKE CITY -- Still don't think Gonzaga deserved that No. 1 seed? There might be a few more doubters now.
Entering the NCAA tournament top-seeded and top-ranked for the first time in program history, the Zags nearly made another kind of history Thursday -- coming only a few minutes and a rimmed-out shot or two from becoming the first 1 to lose to a 16.'
Gonzaga prevailed 64-58 over Southern University in a game that wasn't safely in hand until the final buzzer sounded. No. 1 seeds improved to 113-0 since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Kelly Olynyk led the Zags (32-2) with 21 points, though it was a pair of 3-pointers -- one by Gary Bell Jr., the next by Kevin Pagnos -- that gave Gonzaga its small cushion after Southern (23-10) tied things at 56 with 3:45 left.
Bell's 3 made it 59-56 after Derick Beltran hit a 14-footer on the baseline to close out a 15-4 Southern run and tie the game.
Beltran hit two free throws to cut the deficit to one, but Gonzaga responded by working the ball to Pagnos, whose 3 made it a four-point game.
Yondarius Johnson and Malcom Miller both had open looks on the next possession for Southern but neither could convert.
Pagnos (16 points) made two free throws with 14.3 seconds left to seal the deal. But when Zags coach Mark Few shook hands with his counterpart, Roman Banks, at midcourt, it was hard to tell who won; Banks looked like he was doing the consoling.
Something of a fitting start to the tournament in this season filled with upsets, shifts atop The Associated Press poll and no dominant team.
Critics of Gonzaga felt the West Coast Conference champions got to No. 1 by default more than anything.
The Zags shut out that talk and said they'd take their first game as NCAA tournament front-runners the way they'd taken the previous 33.
But they ran into a team in Southern, enrollment 6,900 out of Baton Rouge, La., and champions of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, that wasn't intimidated by the Zags, but rather spent the season trying to emulate them.
The Jaguars spent much of the game bringing back memories of Princeton's near upset of top-seeded Georgetown in 1989, and East Tennessee State's one-point loss to No. 1 Oklahoma that same tournament.