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No. 11 Gonzaga demolishes No. 3 Utah 82-59 to advance to Sweet Sixteen

Gonzaga shut down two of the tournament's best players over two games. Up next is a seventh trip to the second weekend.

Gonzaga's Eric McClellan (23) and Kyle Wiltjer (33).
Gonzaga's Eric McClellan (23) and Kyle Wiltjer (33).
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Just two weeks ago Gonzaga was looking at the NCAA Tournament bubble from the wrong side.

Now the Zags are heading to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season.

It may have been a game between an No. 11 and No. 3 who were, on paper, extremely similar. But it was just as lopsided as a game between those two seeds should have been, except the 11 was the dominant one. Gonzaga's offense was on fire, shooting 55.6% for the game and 61.5% in the second half. Defensively the Zags, as they have been for months now, were on point. Utah's star big man Jakob Poeltl attempted just five shots and scored just five points.

"We played just about perfect," head coach Mark Few said in a postgame interview.

Gonzaga walk-on Jack Beach not only got to play in this game but scored the first points of his career. It was that kind of game. A little used guard scored his team's final points, and his team was technically supposed to lose.

"We knew coming in that we were the underdog," Eric McClellan said. "We've had that chip on our shoulder all year, from the media saying the guards weren't good enough.

McClellan, the WCC Defensive Player of the Year, led all scorers with 22 points, in addition to his usual work on the other end of the floor. Utah was held to just 42% shooting. While the Utes only turned the ball over 13 times those giveaways led to 20 points for the Zags. Seven of those turnovers were steals.

This was supposed to be an epic battle between international big men Domantas Sabonis (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Poeltl. It was no contest from the opening tip. Sabonis scored on Gonzaga's first possession. Kyle Kuzma (15 points) answered with a three, which gave Utah the lead.

The Utes never saw a lead again.

By the end of the half both of Gonzaga's starting bigs, Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer (17 ponts) had 11 points. McClellan added ten and the Zags were up 44-29. Late in the half the Utes went ice cold. There would be little to warm that chill in the second.

Between the 2:29 mark of the first half and 14:47 mark of the second the Utes were held scoreless from the field. They scored just four points off free throws during that span. Gonzaga's lead grew from 12 points to 22 over that drought.

Back-to-back threes from Dakari Tucker (8 points) and Brandon Taylor (7 points) ended Utah's field goal drought and gave some hope that this game wasn't over.

All that happened was the lead went from 20 points back into the teens for a minute.

Gonzaga did not take their foot off the gas on either end. With 10:12 to play Jakob Poeltl took a jumper near the end of the shot clock. It was blocked by Sabonis. That was just the icing on the cake of a perfect defensive possession that ate nearly 30 seconds of clock and featured constant rotation by Gonzaga. Poeltl would not attempt another shot in the game.

When the Zags emptied their bench, after picking up a 30 point lead, they were scoring 1.311 points per possession.

Gonzaga advances to to the Sweet 16 and will face the winner of the Syracuse/Middle Tennessee State game.