Gonzaga got on a roll and put on a show, moving to 30-0 on the season and cruising into the Final Four with an 85-66 victory against Southern California
INDIANAPOLIS — Gonzaga got on a roll and put on a show Tuesday night, moving to 30-0 on the season and cruising into the Final Four with an 85-66 beatdown of previously rolling Southern California.
Drew Timme had 23 points and five rebounds and, after one dunk, pretended to slick down his handlebar mustache for the few thousand fans in the stands. The top-seeded and top-ranked Bulldogs will be the third team to bring an undefeated record into the Final Four since the bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
The last team to go undefeated was Indiana in 1976. On Saturday in the national semifinals, the Bulldogs will face the winner of a later Elite Eight matchup between UCLA and Michigan.
Timme did whatever he wanted against the nation’s fourth-ranked defense — a team that won its first three tournament games by an average of 21 points — as did pretty much everyone else in a white uniform.
Jared Suggs finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. All-American Corey Kispert had 18 points and eight boards on an “off” night — only 6 for 19 from the floor. Gonzaga only shot 44% in the second half and “only” 50% for the game. That was five under its nation-leading average, but it didn’t matter much.
Blowouts are supposed to be boring, but this had the feel of a Globetrotters game at times, filled with fancy bounce passes through traffic, reverse layups, a swooping power dunk from Joel Ayayi (nine points) and the occasional post-basket flex from the 6-foot-10 Timme.
Gonzaga led sixth-seeded USC 7-0 after two minutes, 25-8 after 8:30 and 36-15 after Kispert took a nifty dish from Timme for an easy layup with 6:03 left in the half.
Gonzaga walked into the locker room at halftime ahead by 19 and with a big fat zero in the turnover column — the gold-standard stat for a team that thrives on offensive efficiency.
The last 20 minutes were extended garbage time — plenty of time for Timme to wax his handlebar mustache and for the Bulldogs to pad the stats.
They are a statistician’s dream — a team that came in No. 1 scoring (91.8), that has won 29 of its 30 games by double digits, and that wasn’t going to be slowed by USC (25-8) and the Brothers Mobley — Isaiah and Evan, who roam the middle for one of the country’s tallest teams (Average height, 6-7).
They both got theirs — Isaiah with 19 points and seven rebounds, and Evan with 17 and five — but the most impressive numbers belonged to the Zags.
The game was interrupted by a frightening moment early, when official Bert Smith collapsed on the floor and had to be taken off in a wheelchair. In the second half, CBS passed along word that Smith was feeling OK and resting in the arena.
He was replaced by Tony Henderson, but there was no heavy lifting for the backup.
USC didn’t get closer than 16 in the second half, and though their intensity wandered at times, there was never any doubt the Zags would be returning to the Final Four for the first time since 2017.
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