The Big East player of the year, who often defers to his teammates despite his considerable all-around talent, scored a career-high 31 points and pulled down 14 rebounds as top-seeded Syracuse hit a dozen 3-pointers to stun the Zags 87-65 on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
"Really, my mind-set was to be aggressive on defense, so I think that carried over to the offensive end," said Johnson, who is finally healed from an injury to his right (shooting) hand in February against Connecticut. "My shot was falling."
Was it ever.
Johnson was 11 of 16 from the field, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc, and he wasn't alone. Andy Rautins hit 7 of 13 shots for 24 points and freshman Brandon Triche had his second straight solid game, finishing with 13 points.
"When they shoot the ball like that, they're hard to handle," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "They're an impressive group."
Syracuse's storybook season – the Orange were unranked before the season and made it to No. 1 for the final week before losing to Georgetown in the Big East tournament – continues on Thursday. The Orange (30-4) will play fifth-seeded Butler (30-4) in Salt Lake City in the West Regional.
XAVIER 71, PITTSBURGH 68: In Milwaukee, Jordan Crawford scored 27 points, including a breakaway dunk with just over two minutes remaining for Xavier.
"I know I'm not taking it for granted and I know my teammates aren't taking it for granted," Crawford said. "I love the fact I'm getting a chance to do this and hopefully we can take it further."
Jason Love had 14 points and a key block down the stretch for the sixth-seeded Musketeers (26-8), who advanced to play second-seeded Kansas State in the West Regional semifinals on Thursday.
"We weren't scared or rattled or anything like that," Love said. "We kept our poise and you saw that."
Ashton Gibbs scored 19 points and Brad Wanamaker had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the third-seeded Panthers (25-9), who nearly rallied with two 3-pointers by Gilbert Brown in the final 28 seconds of the game.
Gibbs missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with less than a second left. Pittsburgh had one last chance to inbound the ball with 0.4 seconds left, but Wanamaker left the shot short.
"Obviously when you lose one that close, it's going to sting," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.