Drew Timme’s new career-high couldn’t have come at a better time as the Gonzaga Bulldogs held off the No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners, 87-71, to advance to the Sweet 16 for the sixth-straight year.
The Sooners, specifically, Austin Reeves started off incredibly strong, trying to push the tempo and draining threes. Oklahoma jumped out to a quick 12-4 lead, but the idea of pushing the tempo against a team that loves to run was never going to work in the long run. Gonzaga did exactly what they have done all year to each team: score more points.
Mark Few went with the death lineup of Timme, Kispert, Nembhard, Ayayi, and Suggs to open the game, but it wasn’t until Anton Watson entered that the defense finally began to settle down. Watson continued his impressive play in the NCAA Tournament, forcing back-to-back turnovers, part of Gonzaga’s nine first half points off Sooner turnovers.
Meanwhile, Drew Timme proved himself a handful down low. The Zags funneled the ball to Mr. Manchu and put him to work, repeatedly. I present you the Timme Tornado.
Drew Timme makes the defender jump pic.twitter.com/6VSYoRHPcv— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 22, 2021
The Zags ended up taking a 46-34 lead into halftime, which was impressive considering that Corey Kispert spent a good chunk of the first half on the bench with two fouls. That didn’t matter much when Joel Ayayi stepped in to score 10 first-half points.
Credit to the Sooners. They read the scouting report that says Gonzaga lacks elite-level rim protection and attacked the hoop, relentlessly. They had success with pick and rolls. Kur Kuath was an absolute terror, blocking Gonzaga shots left and right. In any other game, Reaves would’ve been the player of the game.
Oklahoma was able to keep it close(r) in the second half. The Zags’ offense looked a bit stagnant at times, mixed with some hard-missed Jalen Suggs threes, but Timme was there to bail Gonzaga out each time. It seemed like a battle between Timme and Reaves and their respective companies—which, at the end of the day, is going to be Gonzaga over Oklahoma.
Especially when you have players of this caliber. Suggs didn’t have the best shooting game. But why bother shooting when you can make plays like this.
Suggs with the TOUGH finish @ZagMBB #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/b0b97nqyiE— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 22, 2021
Oklahoma kept fighting throughout the entire second half, outplaying Gonzaga for a not-insignificant period of time. The Gonzaga offense looked disjointed, except for Timme. The Zags just sent the ball to Timme in the post each time. Timme was a monster at the free throw line, hitting 12 of 14 from the line.
Outside of the first few minutes, the Zags stayed firmly in control throughout the afternoon. Even when the Sooners finally cut the lead into single-digits, Gonzaga responded, never truly letting Oklahoma find their way into the game. Things got a bit testy with an incredibly cheap foul by Elijah Harkless on Jalen Suggs, but Corey Kispert, the refs, and the coaching staffs made sure the situation didn’t boil over.
With the win, the Zags are now in the Sweet 16 for the sixth-consecutive year, a pretty nutty thought. Gonzaga will face the winner of Creighton and Ohio in the Sweet 16.