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NCAA Tournament Elite 8 2017: 3 things from Gonzaga’s victory over Xavier

The third time’s the charm for Gonzaga in the Elite Eight.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional-Gonzaga vs Xavier
Johnathan Williams is really good.
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

People said they’d never been, so how could they ever go? Well, the 1 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs defeated the 11 seed Xavier Musketeers 83-59 in the West Regional Final Saturday evening, and now the Zags are heading to the Final Four for the first time in program history. Here are three keys from the game.

Gonzaga has J3

Johnathan Williams scored a jump hook in the paint 59 seconds in to give the Zags their first points. From the start of the game, the transfer from Missouri was the best player on the floor.

He did it all.

Williams scored 19 points on 8-12 shooting. He did it inside, going 7-11 from two-point range, and out, hitting his only attempt from distance. He pulled down eight rebounds, five of which came on the offensive glass. He did it on defense with three blocks and two steals.

The junior power forward now ranks seventh in Gonzaga NCAA Tournament history with seven blocks. This is his first tournament as a Zag. That’s an impact transfer.

Gonzaga hit threes

In their Sweet 16 game against West Virginia, the Zags made four three-pointers on 10 attempts. Against Xavier, the Zags made 12 on 24 attempts.

Xavier’s game plan was to disrupt the Zags on the interior and hope their shots over the zone wouldn’t fall. That’s not a bad idea, considering how efficient the Zags are inside the arc. But it failed miserably, because the Zags are efficient outside as well. This season, they’ve connected on 37.8 percent of their shots from deep. Tonight’s 50 percent performance was indeed above average, but not outrageous. It’s tied for Gonzaga’s sixth-best three point shooting percentage of the season and this was one of nine games in which the Zags hit double-digit threes.

Six Zags connected from long range.

Gonzaga played D

Mark Few had never made the Final Four until now. He’d also never had a team that played defense like this before.

Not just good defense, but the best defense in the nation.

The team with the best defensive efficiency in college basketball, allowing just 0.86 points per possession, put on a defensive show again. Xavier scored just 0.83 points per possession on Saturday.

Gonzaga has done this all season long. It did it again today, and it’s led them to the Final Four.