click to enlarge The Gonzaga men’s and women’s basketball
Erick Doxey photo
Drew Timme hopes to continue to carry the Zags upward in the Sweet Sixteen.
programs went 2-1 over the past week in NCAA Tournament play. While the women saw their season come to a disappointing end, the men's national title dreams still remain.
Lisa Fortier’s group was given a 9-seed in the Seattle Region of the NCAA Tournament. It was an unfavorable seed considering the team’s 28 wins, but a decent geographic draw as the Zags were sent to the Bay Area for their Round of 64 game. Their opponent, Mississippi, had to fly all the way across the country.
Proximity didn’t matter, however, as the Zags were absolutely blitzed by the 8-seed Rebels and lost 71-48 on Friday.
An offensive juggernaut all season long, Gonzaga was ground to a halt by Mississippi’s defense. The Zags shot a season-worst 29.3 percent from the field and made just one of their 17 attempts from three point range (after leading the country in 3-point shooting percentage during the season). They were also held to a season-low of seven assists.
Salt was thrown in the wound two days later when Mississippi upset top-seeded Stanford in the Round of 32, advancing the Rebels to the Sweet Sixteen in Seattle. Gonzaga and Stanford have played a nearly annual series for more than a decade, including earlier this season. The Zags are as familiar with the Cardinal as anybody, and the Rebels showed Stanford could be defeated. For the Zags, it just wasn’t meant to be.
The Gonzaga women end their season with a 28-5 record overall.
The 3-seed in the West Region, Mark Few and company spent the weekend in Denver for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
A shaky first half against Grand Canyon — a team coming off a not-so-impressive sixth place finish in the mid-major Western Athletic Conference — saw the Zags trail by as many as seven points.
“Definitely the tale of two halves as far as we were concerned,” Few said after the game. “As I walked into the locker room [at halftime], Drew [Timme] was talking to the guys about how the jitters were out and now we just needed to play.”
The Zags shot 56 percent after halftime and went an impressive 10 of 11 at the free throw line. Julian Strawther showed up with another massive performance, scoring 28 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. GU turned their seven-point first half deficit into a 22-point lead midway through the second. Grand Canyon cut into the lead as the game wound down, but it was too little, too late from the ‘Lopes.
In the second round all you need to know is that Drew Timme came through once again. The senior forward produced 28 points on 12-21 shooting to go with eight rebounds and three assists. When the rest of the team was struggling, he refused to let them falter. It was a classic Timme performance.
Drew Timme became one of just seven players who have produced nine 20-plus point games in the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga’s all-time leading scorer proved once again he’s one of the best players in the nation.
In the end, the Zags escaped on Sunday against TCU, winning 84-81.
Gonzaga’s men next take on UCLA in a Sweet Sixteen matchup in Las Vegas. The 2-seeded Bruins take on the 3-seeded Zags. It’s a rematch of the 2006 matchup between these two programs — then a 3-seed in Gonzaga and a 2-seed in UCLA — in which Adam Morrison famously cried on the court. These two programs are seeded the same as they were then. Will the outcome be the same as it was over a decade ago?
Gonzaga is 4-1 versus UCLA since that famous meeting in 2006, and is riding a two game winning streak, including the famous Jalen Suggs buzzer-beater that won their matchup the 2021 Final Four.
Gonzaga vs. UCLA • Thu, March 23 at 6:45 pm • CBS