Zach Norvell wouldn’t go down in the first weekend.
The freshman guard from Chicago, who saved Gonzaga’s season with a clutch three on Thursday, willed his team back into it again tonight. Throughout the game, Norvell led Gonzaga in scoring with 28 points, but his performance over the final eight minutes led the Bulldogs to victory.
At the free throw line with exactly eight minutes to play Norvell — who also tallied a career high in points and rebounds (12) tonight — knocked down a pair. Between that moment and the under-four TV timeout, he accounted for seven points, four rebounds and an assist.
“He goes a month sometimes without a rebound,” Mark Few said laughingly after the game.
Gonzaga went from down four to up by three during that stretch and never looked back.
It looked that way early, as Gonzaga opened up a 15-0 lead to start the game, and the Buckeyes failed to score on their first 10 possessions. The Zags, who defeated Ohio State 86-59 back in November, looked well on their way to another rout.
But foul trouble and a hot shooting Ohio State hampered the Zags’ plans in the second half.
With 10:35 to play, Kam Williams drained a three to give Ohio State its first lead of the game. The Buckeyes’ did not trail for the next five minutes, and it felt like all the momentum had shifted. But their lead never grew past five points.
As Norvell executed his Herculean takeover of the game, a surprising shot from one of Gonzaga’s quieter weapons that reclaimed the lead.
Although Gonzaga entered the game shooting over 71 percent from the free throw line, the Bulldogs connected on merely 61 percent against Ohio State. So it was surprising when Killian Tillie hit a free throw to give the Zags the lead for good.
The win over Ohio State adds to another one of Gonzaga’s streaks: The school from Spokane has made 20 straight NCAAs, 10 straight Round of 32 appearances and is now heading to its fourth-consecutive Sweet 16.
“We’ve got two guys in Perkins and Silas who have made it to four straight second weekends,” Few said.
Gonzaga’s become a legitimate national powerhouse over the past few seasons. Now, in 2018, they’re being led through the dance by a redshirt freshman who nobody expects to be one-and-done. It’s fair to assume these streaks aren’t coming to a close anytime soon.