Sports

Baylor reminds Gonzaga of how tough it is to win it — and them — all

INDIANAPOLIS — What does it appear to be when perfection is ruined? It seems like Gonzaga star Corey Kispert leaping to hearth a 3-pointer his group desperately wants, seeing the flash of Baylor guard Jared Butler’s fast response cross his imaginative and prescient, then attempting to get away with placing the ball down to dribble whereas three ft off the bottom. That’s towards the principles.

It seems like All-American heart Drew Timme compelled right into a guarded turnaround jumper from 14 ft as a result of his teammates uncared for the shot clock and left him stranded with no recourse however to hearth a shot that had little likelihood.

It seems like coach Mark Few’s scramble out of a switching man-to-man protection the Bears had been shredding and making an attempt a 2-3 zone, then later a 1-3-1, and Baylor discovering the failings in no matter scheme the Zags tried.

BENDER: Baylor writes own storybook finish on a near-perfect night

It seems like Baylor coach Scott Drew pointing to his bench to summon the deep reserves, the walk-ons, allowing them a ceremonial final minute to allow them to inform their youngsters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews they completed the sport for the profitable facet in an NCAA championship recreation.

And it seems like Gonzaga one-and-done freshman Jalen Suggs departing the ground in tears, simply two days after he’d stood on the scorer’s desk because the buzzer-beating king of the Final Four.

If this weren’t to finish efficiently, it was unlikely to finish fantastically.

Gonzaga’s drive for an ideal championship season ended with neither Monday evening at Lucas Oil Stadium. After 31 consecutive victories got here the “1” this system’s followers had been fearing. The alternative to develop into the primary undefeated NCAA Tournament winner since 1976 disappeared quickly towards a Baylor surge that Few hailed as “aggressive” — or some derivation of that phrase — a complete of seven occasions in his 15-minute dialogue with reporters afterward.

FAGAN: Breaking down the 96-second sequence that ended Gonzaga’s title hopes

This was Gonzaga’s second look since 2017 within the NCAA championship recreation, and the second time by which it exited in defeat, however the first by which it had entered with no loss.


“It’s obviously a feeling these guys had never had to address and deal with,” Few instructed Sporting News.” But I think the nature of it tonight probably made it — I mean, it’s not easy but, again, as a coach you just try to give them as much perspective as you can. And as is usually the case with everything, time will lend them the best perspective.

“But they’ve simply been a tremendous, unbelievable group. And I simply instructed them they’re simply really easy to coach and really easy to journey with and really easy to take care of all this COVID stuff that we handled all 12 months. I simply was amazed at how they dealt with every little thing.”

The Zags did not lose because they play in the West Coast Conference and face lesser competition than the Bears through January and February. They did not lose because they wore themselves out playing late into Saturday night, their overtime semifinal against UCLA ending on star freshman Suggs’ 37-foot bank shot. They did not lose because they were carrying a greater burden as the team chasing an undefeated season.

“I by no means felt like we performed with that weight all 12 months,” Few said. “I all the time felt like we have been the aggressor and we have been all the time — I name it assault mode. And we simply ran right into a group tonight that was, they have been the aggressor, clearly. So I feel that put us again positively on our heels on each ends.

“And, look, I’ve been watching them all year and watching last year and I knew they were going to be a handful for us. Just those guards are so quick and they can all get to their own shot. They’re obviously more athletic than we are up around the rim. But I thought we might be able to find some advantages, too, and we just weren’t quite able to do that.”

MORE: Live updates, highlights from Baylor’s rout of Gonzaga

They misplaced as a result of Baylor is wonderful: large, highly effective, deep and outrageously expert. The Bears’ backcourt trio of Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler and MaCio Teague mixed to hit 7 of 16 from 3-point vary, and reserve Adam Flagler hit 3 of 4.

They misplaced as a result of the Zags weren’t wonderful on this night, in stark distinction to what that they had been so many occasions earlier than.

The 2017 loss to North Carolina went down to the ultimate minute earlier than the Tar Heels seized the sport. It was nearer to the primary minute when this one was determined. The Zags have been crushed early and typically by Baylor’s dynamite guards and rugged large males. They have been crushed inside and out, on the offensive finish and on D. They have been crushed on the boards (38-22) and on the perimeter (14 turnovers, too many of them ensuing from dribbling the ball within the neighborhood of a number of defenders).


Baylor knowledgeable the Zags early that its desire for a four-guard lineup was going to be problematic. The Bears grabbed 5 of the primary eight rebounds that got here off their offensive board. By halftime, they owned 9 offensive rebounds, a 47.3 p.c fee, and that improved to 48.5 p.c by the tip. The greatest offensive rebounding group in faculty basketball this season, North Carolina, averaged 40.9.

Perhaps even a larger concern was Gonzaga’s determination to change at all 5 positions, typically leaving Timme matched on a guard, typically Butler, Mitchell or Teague. Those three mixed for 31 of Baylor’s 47 first half factors.

Whatever protection they have been enjoying, and nonetheless ineffective it was, there was no approach the Zags have been going to win with out hitting some 3-point pictures. And they missed six of their first seven and completed 5 of 17. Kispert, an All-American, confirmed off his means to play above the rim at each ends, once more, however he continued a gentle (however horribly timed) taking pictures hunch by hitting simply 2 of 7 from deep, bringing his three-game Lucas Oil Stadium complete to 7 of 25. That’s 28 p.c. He entered the Elite Eight taking pictures .461 from deep.

“Especially in this kind of a place, in this environment — the more aggressive team gets more calls. The more aggressive team makes more 3s,” Kispert mentioned. “The more aggressive team gets more rebounds. And they punched us in the mouth right at the get-go. And it took a long, long time for us to recover and start playing them even again. But then it was too late.”

It didn’t finish fairly the final time an undefeated group got here this shut to profitable the championship, when Larry Bird and Indiana State received to the title recreation and discovered his group, as nicely, bodily overmatched within the frontcourt.

LIST: The 37 best teams not to win a national championship

“It’s a really, really tough one to end a storybook season on,” Few mentioned. “But listen, Baylor just beat us. They beat us in every facet of the game tonight and deserve all the credit. And obviously we’re all disappointed in here, but, you know, as I told the guys, like, you make it this far and you’re 31-0 going into the last one, the last 40 minutes of the season, there’s absolutely nothing you should ever feel bad about. And they’ll look back on this season as time passes as something just amazing and incredible.”

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(Getty Images)

The Zags entered this weekend as if approaching an intersection. We aren’t a lot for these round Indy. We choose left turns and roundabouts, however approaching this type of both/or was inevitable for a group arriving on the Final Four with an ideal file. There have been two instructions, and choosing one was obligatory.

On one facet have been the seven groups that accomplished a complete faculty basketball season with out defeat and with an NCAA championship. Some of us can checklist them all with out trying it up: 1956 San Francisco, 1957 North Carolina, 1964 UCLA, 1967 UCLA, 1972 UCLA, 1973 UCLA and 1976 Indiana. The NCAA Tournament first was performed in 1939, and solely that elite group was ready to full the whole journey to perfection.


On the alternative facet have been the groups, an imprecise assortment, who got here so shut to ending undefeated however couldn’t. There have been those who received deep into the season earlier than stumbling at the very least as soon as, and then approached the title with out grabbing it: UMass 1996, Illinois 2005, Memphis 2008. There have been those who made it all the best way to the Final Four earlier than seeing their mark spoiled: UNLV 1991 and Kentucky 2015, most prominently. There even have been Bird’s 1979 Sycamores, who fell within the nationwide championship recreation to Michigan State and Magic Johnson.

Every group in both group is legendary. So it wasn’t about whether or not Gonzaga would give you the option to seize greatness. That already had been achieved. It was about finishing the job. This didn’t occur.

“You kind of forget. You really do forget what it’s like to lose,” Kispert instructed Sporting News. “And every time it happens, it doesn’t feel good. And thankfully I’ve had not very many of them over my career, whether it’s in the regular season or in the tournament.

“But I imply, if you come up towards a group like that who is simply firing on all cylinders for 40 minutes, it’s actually laborious to compete with. So, yeah, you form of neglect and it would not really feel good. I’m going to bear in mind this for a very long time.”



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