A historic NCAA men’s basketball tournament filled with a record number of upheavals might worry title-favored Gonzaga, but the Bulldogs made their way through Oklahoma on Monday in their typical and compelling fashion.
Sophomore big man Drew Timme said the team have paid attention to double-digit seeds that knock out highly ranked teams across the board – but for a team that understands what’s at stake this month – Here, that hasn’t changed much.
“We’ve definitely seen the games play out, but you know, it’s March and anything can happen,” said Timme. “We’re treating this game like we’re a 16 seed and the losers. You have to bring that fire. All it takes is a good game and you can be knocked out. , every game. “
Gonzaga improved to 28-0 with the 87-71 victory, and the Bulldogs will play the winner of Monday’s game between No.5 Creighton and No.13 Ohio.
This is the sixth consecutive appearance of Sweet 16 for Gonzaga, the longest active streak in the country.
“The first thing that was key for us was this group that I coach,” said coach Mark Few. “I literally think they can handle anything, probably even shipwreck on a desert island, and they will understand that. It’s a joy.”
Oklahoma took a few shots early and took a 12-4 lead, but Gonzaga took the lead about nine minutes into the game and was never left behind again. Timme was the star of the game, finishing with 30 points, 13 rebounds and four assists, while Jalen Suggs (16 points) and Corey Kispert (16 points) were also key contributors.
The Sooners, who were without a starting point guard De’Vion Harmon due to a positive COVID-19 test, got 27 points from Austin Reaves, but forward Brady Manek struggled against Gonzaga’s defense, shooting 1 in 8 on the field and finishing with Three points.
Gonzaga will be the favorite in every game to come, and with 2-seeded Iowa and 4-seeded Virginia already eliminated from the Western Region, the perception is that the Bulldogs have an easy road to the top. Final Four. But there have been 12 upsets by teams ranked five places or less than their opponents, which could put the Zags on guard.
“There are a lot of good teams out there,” said little. “When you play them on the biggest stage and it’s just one game, it’s not a seven game streak, anything can happen. And there are a lot of good coaches out there, you give enough time to plan the game for stuff like that, they’re gonna take your strength away from you. Someone you might never have heard of is getting hot. We all teams go through phases. Sometimes we play well, sometimes we stabilize and we’re not that good. “
Gonzaga celebrated the win after the game in the locker room, but few said the team are trying to celebrate every win at this point in the season. In Sweet 16’s last five appearances, two have ended in the Regional Semifinals, two have ended in Elite Eight and reached the National Championship game in 2017 before losing to North Carolina.
It will be their best chance at winning a title, and they know it.
“This feeling will only last for the rest of the night and then we will have to prepare,” said Timme. “A lot of work to do. We have a lot of things we can work on. We’re not happy with that, it’s not the end goal.”
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