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Gonzaga 2021 As Dominates. U.C.L.A Tops Alabama in an N.C.A.A. Thriller

Gonzaga 2021 As  Dominates. U.C.L.A Tops Alabama in an N.C.A.A. Thriller
gonzaga basketball, drew timme, gonzaga vs creighton

Gonzaga 2021 As Dominates. U.C.L.A Tops Alabama in an N.C.A.A. Thriller

Gonzaga Gonzaga N.C.A.A. Alabama Dominates, Thriller As in U.C.L.A an Tops

Sun, 28 Mar 2021 14:00:00 -0700

Gonzaga is moving smoothly in its chase of an undefeated season

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Gonzaga is moving smoothly in its chase of an undefeated season.

U.C.L.A.

is also in the round of 8 after surging past Alabama in overtime.

INDIANAPOLIS — Joel Ayayi, a junior guard from Bordeaux, France, with a sly grin and a silky jumper, fancies himself as l’enfant terrible of the Gonzaga men’s basketball team.

On a powerhouse squad where everyone knows his role — Corey Kispert is the deadeye shooter, Jalen Suggs the whirling dervish and Drew Timme the mustachioed wizard in the post — Ayayi rides along as the merry prankster.

He might knock on a hotel door and bolt down the hallway.

He might tap a teammate on the right shoulder when he’s standing to his left, or jump out from behind a door to startle someone.

He’s racking his brain to figure out what’s next.

“I’m taking any ideas,” Ayayi told reporters on a video conference call last week.

If the antics seem childish, his teammates tolerate Ayayi because his pranks are about the only bothers they’ve endured this season.

Certainly, there have been few on the basketball court this season the way they have waltzed through their schedule.

It was no different on Sunday, when the No.

1-seeded Zags cruised past No.

5-seeded Creighton, 83-65, at Hinkle Fieldhouse to earn a berth in the round of 8 against Southern California on Tuesday night.

The Trojans, the No.

6 seed in the West region, beat seventh-seeded Oregon, 82-68, in Sunday’s final game.

The most scintillating game of the day — and perhaps the tournament — was U.C.L.A.’s 88-78 upset of second-seeded Alabama in overtime.

The Crimson Tide rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit and sent the game into overtime on Alex Reese’s 26-footer with four-tenths of a second remaining in regulation.

But the 11th-seeded Bruins, who rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat Michigan State in overtime in a play-in game, dominated the extra period, even without their stalwart, Johnny Juzang, who fouled out with 2 minutes and 26 seconds left in regulation.

Of Alabama’s many regrets will be making just 11 of 27 free throws.

The Bruins advance to play top-seeded Michigan, which capitalized on a 50-point show in the paint to crush fourth-seeded Florida State, 76-58.

Gonzaga (29-0), which is trying to become the first unbeaten men’s basketball national champion since Indiana in 1976, has had only one margin of victory smaller than 10 points this season.

Its three tournament victories have come by 43, 16 and 18 points.

“We’re not hung up on the undefeated thing at all,” Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said, adding: “As you get farther and farther along with this, the pressure comes from a lot of places.

I think the biggest place it comes from is you don’t want it to end.

I bet if you asked them, they wish they could play 25 more games together.

So you just don’t want it to end.”

Gonzaga played that way on Sunday.

On an afternoon when Kispert was unusually quiet, attempting only one 3-pointer in the first 30 minutes, and Suggs committed six turnovers, the less-heralded starters joined Timme, the game-high scorer with 22 points, front and center.

Point guard Andrew Nembhard scored 17 points and had 8 assists, and Ayayi contributed 13 points and 8 rebounds.

Their six 3-pointers combined were a retort to Creighton’s daring them to shoot.

And it was also a platform to showcase the skills of Nembhard, a transfer who might be overlooked but was the first freshman at Florida since Bradley Beal to start every game.

Few repeatedly put Nembhard in pick-and-rolls with Timme, and sat back and watched him make one good decision after another, as the ball soon went whizzing around the court.

Of Gonzaga’s 34 baskets, 23 came via an assist.

“If you make a mistake, they’re going to make you pay for it with the pass and create any easy opportunity for the teammates,” Creighton Coach Greg McDermott said last week, calling the Zags one of the best passing teams he has seen.

“It’s one thing to be unselfish; it’s another thing to be unselfish and have the ability to deliver the pass on time and in the right spot.”

McDermott is no stranger to Gonzaga.

This was the third time in the last four seasons they met.

Creighton led each of the previous games by 7 at halftime, only to have Gonzaga put up 54 and 62 points in the second half to run away with victories.

There was no such drama on Sunday.

No matter the problem Gonzaga might confront, the answer is always more offense.

After Marcus Zegarowski sank a 3-pointer midway through the first half to draw Creighton within 27-25, the Bluejays just couldn’t keep pace.

The Bulldogs’ lead was a comfortable 43-33 at halftime and got only larger as the ball zipped around the court with ruthless efficiency.

“That’s been our identity all season,” Nembhard said.

“We play the best when we’re moving the ball because we have so many pieces and so much versatility.

It’s just like playing in the park with a bunch of guys that click.”

The question over the next eight days, when the tournament concludes, is who will challenge Gonzaga?

Teams in its quarter of the bracket have been crippled by the coronavirus.

Virginia Commonwealth was knocked out of the tournament by positive cases and could not play its first-round game against Oregon.

Third-seeded Kansas and fourth-seeded Virginia were compromised by them leading up to the first round and bowed out early (though both had lost to Gonzaga early in the season).

Creighton also had its own disruptions this month when McDermott was suspended for telling his players after a loss to Xavier that “I need everybody to stay on the plantation,” a metaphor that conjured images of players as slaves.

McDermott, who was suspended only after widespread outrage — including some from former Creighton players — was reinstated after missing one game and apologizing.

Creighton advanced to the Big East tournament championship but was routed by Georgetown.

The Bluejays were nearly upset by No.

12-seed U.C.

Santa Barbara in the first round of the N.C.A.A.

tournament before racing past Ohio in the second round.

The Zags’ undoing has often been teams with length defensively and ones that force the Zags to defend.

Texas Tech used that formula to knock off the Zags in the West Regional final in 2019, and Florida State upset them in 2018.

Southern California has the height to bother Gonzaga at one end and Oregon has the quickness off the dribble to do so at the other end.

But they are also not seeded to reach this point for a reason.

Few, though, pointed to all the upsets in this tournament.

“I hope people realize just how hard it is; it’s literally the hardest thing we do in our sport is advancing in this tournament,” said Few, a coach whose team is making it look easy.

Alan Blinder contributed reporting.

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Sun, 28 Mar 2021 14:00:00 -0700

INDIANAPOLIS — Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard believes he still has room to improve

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The scary part is, he thinks that also might be true for the 

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INDIANAPOLIS — Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard believes he still has room to improve.

The scary part is, he thinks that also might be true for the undefeated Zags.

Nembhard had 17 points and eight assists, both season highs, to keep the NCAA Tournament’s top overall seed rolling with Sunday’s 83-65 rout of fifth-seeded Creighton in the West Region semifinals.

Afterward, he insisted nobody was satisfied.

“I don’t think we have peaked,” he said.

“I think, as I said earlier, we can always get better.

We can always work on our stuff.

So I think we’re getting close, and we need to squeeze out that five percent that we talked about.”

It’s hard to imagine the Bulldogs (29-0) could play much better.

They extended their school-record winning streak to 33, the Division I record for consecutive double-digit wins to 26 and reached the Elite Eight for the fourth time in six years.

Next up is Tuesday’s West regional final against either sixth-seeded Southern California or seventh-seeded Oregon, and if Gonzaga continues playing with the same balance it has shown throughout the season, it will be hard for either opponent to stop the Zags short of the Final Four.

Some of Gonzaga’s usual stars were content with supporting roles Sunday.

Second-team All-American Drew Timme led the way with 22 points, six rebounds and four assists as the Zags shot 59.6% from the field against a foe that led the Big East in defensive field goal percentage.

Joel Ayayi added 13 points and eight rebounds.

First-team All-American Corey Kispert scored 12 points and Timme’s fellow second-teamer Jalen Suggs finished with nine.

Defensively, the Zags held Creighton to 40 points over the final 30 minutes as they methodically turned a 27-25 game into a blowout.

Gonzaga never trailed, led 43-33 at halftime and spent most of the second half pulling away.

The Bluejays (22-9) never really had a serious chance at advancing to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1941, when the NCAA Tournament only gave out eight bids.

“They just play so fast, so efficient with everything they do,” said Marcus Zegarowski, who led Creighton with 19 points.

“There are no lapses.

You just can’t take, not even a play, you can’t take a second off or they’re going to make you pay.”

Denzel Mahoney added 13 points for Creighton.

Gonzaga extended its advantage to 20 points on Suggs’ layup with 11:22 to go.

That just about finished off Creighton as the Zags moved within three wins of becoming the first undefeated national champion since Indiana in 1976.

“I’m just telling you: We’re not hung up on the undefeated thing at all,” coach Mark Few said.

“We’ve got to go undefeated from here on out.

We’ve got to go 3-0 if we want to win the championship, which that’s been our goal all along.

But nobody’s talking about the overall undefeated thing at all.” BIG PICTURE

Creighton: The Bluejays reached their first Sweet 16 since 1974 but didn’t have nearly enough against a foe on a clear mission.

They were simply overwhelmed by the Zags over the final 30 minutes.

Gonzaga: The Zags have won their first three tournament games by a combined 77 points.

UNFRIENDLY HINKLE

Big East teams haven’t found Hinkle Fieldhouse to be any friendlier as a neutral court than it is when they play Butler each season.

Villanova and Creighton both lost here this weekend by double digits, and it might have been disconcerting for the Bluejays to hear the public address announcer saying things like “Bulldogs 3-pointer” when Gonzaga made a shot from beyond the arc.

Syracuse, which played in the Big East during the league’s glory days, also lost at Hinkle on Saturday.

FALLING SHORT

On Thursday, Creighton coach Greg McDermott said the Bluejays couldn’t rely on defense to beat Gonzaga.

They needed to score.

Related Articles No.

11 UCLA beats No.

2 Alabama in OT to reach Elite Eight Davonte Davis’ jumper gives Arkansas 72-70 win over Oral Roberts Close range: Baylor grinds to Elite 8 in 62-51 win ova ‘Nova Picked last, Oregon State now Elite: Beavers beat Loyola in NCAAs Hotline mailbag: Washington’s unprecedented downturn; scrapping Pac-12 divisions; the expanding FBS gap; and more

When they didn’t, the result was predictable.

“You have to score to play with Gonzaga.

We just didn’t score enough,” McDermott said.

“Obviously the start of the second half was huge for us.

We really felt like for us to have an opportunity, we had to win that first four-minute timeout.

Instead they were able to take that lead from 10 to 14 and then it’s an uphill battle against a team like that.”

___

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– March 29, 2021
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