What an amazing start for the Zags.
A 15-0 run sparked by the offensive performances of Zach Norvell Jr. and Rui Hachimura. Norvell Jr. got the scoring going with two threes removing the lid off the basket for both teams. Keeping the offensive pressure on, Hachimura provided seven of the points during the opening run. The Bulldogs held the Buckeyes scoreless for six minutes but Ohio State responded with an 11-4 run.
Ohio State weathered the storm, settling in, and methodically chipped away at the lead with a quiet but big 14 point half from Keita Bates-Diop. They would get the score to 34-27 before Gonzaga sparked another slight run during the last two minutes of the half.
The game of runs would continue, in the first three minutes of the second half, Ohio State jumped on the Bulldogs with a 13-4 run, cutting the lead to 48-46. The Buckeyes grabbed their first lead at 10:35 on a three from Kam Williams. The game had shifted in the favor of the Buckeyes as evident by their dominance during the middle stage of the ball game. They had a 45-27 scoring advantage from the eight-minute mark of the first half until 9:47 of the second half.
Needing a jolt of energy, none other than Norvell Jr. accepted the challenge. Bates-Diop (28 points) was taking control—having just knocked down a three and momentum on their side, Norvell Jr. responded with a three of his own.
Trailing by five prior to the jumper, the last six minutes belonged to the Bulldogs. Ohio State made the final minutes difficult, forcing turnovers, getting to the foul line, but after a poor free throw shooting night, Gonzaga found the touch late.
Fittingly, it would be the two players that got the Zags started, Norvell Jr. (28 points) and Hachimura (25 points), who would be instrumental late in the game.
Gonzaga has now reached it’s fourth consecutive sweet 16 — ninth in program history —and heads to Los Angeles, where they await the winner of Xavier and Florida State.