The Zags have to wait yet another year to win the big one as Arkansas upsets Gonzaga in San Francisco. Arkansas is heading to the Elite Eight for the 2nd straight season. Mark Few and company had all the opportunities in the world to turn the table during this one but came up short time after time again.
Yes, I do agree. The refs made questionable calls on Chet Holmgren who was standing tall and being called for fouls while protecting the rim that he didn’t commit. He didn’t deserve to foul out in his final game with Gonzaga. But that’s basketball, it’s going to happen. What matters is how you can overcome that aspect of the game and battle back.
College basketball officiating is broken and here are all five fouls on Chet Holmgren as exhibit A: pic.twitter.com/wN0j0ieLKL— Bryan Matecun (@BryanMatecun) March 25, 2022
The Zags had many chances to cut this lead and even take the lead in the 2nd half but left shots short at the front of the rim over and over again. A good amount of those were open and easy looks as well. Only 24-64 from the field (37.5 FG%) and 5-21 from deep (23.8 3P%). That was one of the coldest shooting performances of the season for Gonzaga.
Arkansas did a fantastic job on shutting down Andrew Nembhard (2-11 FG, 5 turnovers). Eric Musselman is very familiar with his game as he played against him a few times when Nembhard was at Florida. That was the main focus that Musselman wanted to emphasize on his team. Knock the lead guard out of the game and the Razorbacks came up successful in that goal.
Major props to Arkansas’ defense who kept Gonzaga out of their tempo and forced one of the best offenses in the nation out of rhythm. Musselman spoke in the postgame presser on dealing with Andrew Nembhard’s cross-court outlet passes and getting in the passing lane consistently. The Razorbacks did that and more against one of the best teams in the nation with sharing the ball. Arkansas forced 15 total Gonzaga turnovers and that’s a stat that will haunt Mark Few.
JD Notae (21 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks), Jaylin Williams (15 points, 12 rebounds), and Trey Wade (15 points, 7 rebounds) were as good as advertised, maybe even better. Those three were the main sources of offense and rebounding for the Razorbacks the entire game. Gonzaga had no answer to how to stop that trio.
Rasir Bolton and Julian Strawther played very strong at the start of this one (combining for 16 of Gonzaga’s 29 1st half points) but went silent in the second half, not putting up as many shots. It was easy to tell that Mark Few told his guys in the locker room at halftime to feed Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren in the paint more. The All-American duo combined for 36 points and 21 rebounds but it still wasn’t enough for this team to come out victorious.
Plain and simple, this game could’ve been taken over by Gonzaga if they made their open looks. Gonzaga left a lot of points off the board throughout and had second-chance opportunities to make up for it but to no prevail. On the other end, Arkansas was making everything in the 2nd half from all spots on the floor and closed it out.
Now, we look to the offseason and the chase for a national championship next season. A lot of questions need to be answered. How will this team move on from Chet Holmgren and Andrew Nembhard? Is Drew Timme returning to Spokane? Can Julian Strawther and Anton Watson make an even bigger jump? What is up with the 2022 recruiting class and the transfer portal?
Regardless, a spectacular 2021-2022 campaign for Gonzaga. A lot of great memories came out of this season. Keep your heads up, Zags.
Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho