No upsets here. Gonzaga earned its sixth consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 after putting on a clinic through an 87-71 win over Oklahoma on Monday in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. After the game, Drew Timme kept his opening statement short and simple:
“Man it feels good to go to the Sweet 16,” he said while drenched in sweat and rocking his well-known mustache.
Timme was the star of the day with 30 points. Jalen Suggs and Corey Kispert followed with 16 points each, and Joel Ayayi picked up 12.
The Oklahoma offense saw three players score in double digits. Austin Reaves had a great performance, but his 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting were not enough against a deep Bulldog offense.
The Sooners, as a whole, deserve credit for the stretches in which they gave Gonzaga a hard time. Oklahoma was missing starter De’Vion Harmon, who was ruled out of the first two games due to COVID-19 protocol. Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said that Harmon’s absence made the game even more difficult because other guys were able to surprise the Zags.
The Sooners made three shots from beyond the arc less than three minutes into the game. Reaves had a hot start and only missed two of his first seven shots. Gonzaga recognized the danger and worked to get him in foul trouble. With 11 minutes still left in the first half, Reaves had his second charge call and headed over to the bench.
“We came out with our Plan A coverage and it wasn’t working,” Few said. “Fortunately we had a day of practice yesterday with Plan B and C, so we kind of segued into that.”
Oklahoma found itself up by as many as eight points in the first half. After that, the Zags showed exactly why they’re considered the best team in the nation and the favorites to win it all. By halftime, Gonzaga led 46-34 with Timme recording 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting and seven rebounds. Joel Ayayi had a nice contribution of 10 points, including two shots from deep.
Gonzaga had a bit of a scoring drought toward the end of the second half, only scoring two points in over three minutes. Freshman Jalen Suggs broke it with a layup at the 4:11 mark. The drought went almost unnoticed because the Zags still held a double-digit lead of 75-63 at that point.
The game was tough and physical. Suggs got a scratch on his forehead and a couple minutes later Oklahoma’s Elijah Harkless committed a flagrant 1 foul. Emotions were high, but cooled off as the teams separated. Timme and Drew Kispert were two of the Gonzaga players who immediately looked to de-escalate.
Head coach Mark Few was confident his team would make the right decision.
“It’s what these guys do, these guys have played in enough big games. They are conditioned for that,” he said. “I don’t worry about our guys. Our guys are mentally tough and they understand what it takes to win so they’re great about that.”
While the team is taking the tournament seriously, Few was also drenched during the postgame press conference. When asked about it, the coach said his team was celebrating in the locker room and that they will continue celebrating tonight.
“If we are lucky enough to get another one we are going to celebrate like crazy for that one,” he said. “This tournament needs to be celebrated, it’s been a long hard slog to get to this.”