Gonzaga has advanced to the Sweet 16 for the sixth consecutive tournament, staving off the challenge of the eighth seed Oklahoma Sooners. The game wasn’t always in hand, as an early eight point lead for the Sooners made things interesting in the first half. The Zags were able to gain some separation in the second half however, and finished with another double-digit victory. Despite the margin of victory, there was still plenty to take away from this Round of 32 win.
1. It was a little surprising to see Oklahoma come out and match Gonzaga’s pace from the opening tip. As good as the Zags are running the floor, it seemed more likely that the Sooners would try and slow the game down, but they were able to stay with Gonzaga and then some. Their early eight point lead was evidence of that.
2. Austin Reaves played as well as advertised. The All-Big 12 player was the motor for Oklahoma throughout the game, and his importance to the Sooners was demonstrated when Lon Kruger left him in the game despite early foul trouble. As the game progressed, it became clear Reaves was going to get his points, so attention shifted to clamping down on the rest of OU’s offensive threats. This was especially true on Brady Manek, who finished with just three points.
3. One of the keys for GU in the first half and throughout the game was their defense, particularly in half court sets. They had five steals and forced eight total turnovers in the first half, and were up 8-0 in points off transition at the break.
4. It has been said many times this season, but it is still bears noting how talented this team’s offense is. Corey Kispert sat for most of the first half with foul trouble, and Oklahoma played about as well as they could for those twenty minutes, but Gonzaga still finished the half with 46 points, shooting 56.7% from the field. Those are just crazy numbers.
5. Anton Watson could start for 95% of teams in the nation. His defensive ability has been huge for GU, and will be a key piece for them moving forward in the tournament. Watson has also turned himself into a viable offensive threat, too. He won’t get the number of looks that Kispert, Timme, or Suggs get, but is active off the ball and uses his energy to take advantage of certain situations, coming up with some timely buckets for the Zags.
6. There have been few weak spots for Gonzaga all season, but free throw shooting has occasionally been a bit of a bug for the Bulldogs, who shoot just 72.7% from the line. However, they finished 23-26 from the line against Oklahoma, an 88.5 percentage that they would love to carry through the rest of the tournament.
7. Speaking of weak links, Gonzaga’s lack of rim protection and length inside was evident at times, as OU’s Kur Kuath terrorized the Zags in the paint, blocking five shots and likely affecting more than that. This could potentially become an issue for GU in a regional final matchup against Kansas’s David McCormack or USC’s Mobley brothers. Luckily, the offensive prowess of this team and Drew Timme in particular could help offset that mismatch.
8. Timme finished with a career high 30 points, along with 13 rebounds and 4 assists. The mustachioed maestro was in rhythm offensively from the open, and his performance down low helped propel the Zags in a game where they weren’t great shooting from the outside. Just as Reaves led the way for the Sooners, it was Timme who was the focal point all game for GU.
9. Oklahoma stayed within arm’s length of the Zags for most of this game. The Sooners played and executed about as well as they could have, but once again Gonzaga’s play on both ends of the floor proved to be too much for their opponent. Oklahoma is in no way a pushover; they played and beat some tough competition this year. The sixteen point margin of victory is more of a statement to the Zags’ world class ability, which is why they are the No. 1 overall seed, regardless of what any Michigan fan will tell you.
10. The Gonzaga Bulldogs, out of the West Coast Conference, are going to play in their sixth straight Sweet Sixteen. No matter what happens the rest of the way, the run this program is on is truly remarkable, especially when you consider where it was twenty years ago. That being said, there are still four more games left to win.