Gonzaga falls short against Baylor in NCAA Championship
INDIANAPOLIS — The ’21 Gonzaga Bulldogs‘ historic run came to a close on Monday night as the team suffered its first loss of the season: An 86-70 defeat to another No. 1 seed, the Baylor Bears. Foul trouble and a shocking discrepancy in the 3-point margin were the undoings of the most successful team in program history.
Slow starts won’t cut it in the National Championship — The Zags’ second appearance in five seasons. From the first moment of action, it was clear that Gonzaga would struggle with its opponent’s strength and physicality.
The Bulldogs began the game in a slump with key players getting into early foul trouble. The team gave up its largest lead of the NCAA Tournament (9 points) quickly to an envigorated Baylor rotation on the most competitive stage in the sport. As the half progressed, the Bulldogs snapped out of their funk and began playing with their signature hustle.
As far as your basic regular-season game goes, this wouldn’t have been a terrible half from the Bulldogs. As per usual, Drew Timme led the team offensively with a cerebral style of play based on great court awareness and adaptability. He hit all but one of his five attempts from the field for 10 points, two rebounds and a block in the half.
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Baylor established itself from the 3-point line early and finished the half with seven 3-pointers on 58.3% from deep. This was likely a point of emphasis from head coach Scott Drew as his team put pressure on the 3-point line to force Gonzaga into the paint.
Though his seven points and two assists in the half didn’t jump off the stat sheet, junior guard Andrew Nembhard played with his heart on his sleeve. He asserted himself on defense and played for his teammates, helping to facilitate the game as Suggs struggled.
A future NBA lottery pick, Suggs let loose in the second half, shooting with more confidence and scrambling to contest shots on defense. He finished with a team-high 22 points on 6-of-14 shooting along with three steals in an effort that’s likely to increase his draft stock, though he very clearly doesn’t care about that right now. His emotion was on display as he left the court, likely for the final time in his college career.
This year’s Gonzaga team operated with a singularity — All five players on the court are in tune with each other, tossing passes around the court and seamlessly running through plays without a second thought. Head coach Mark Few instilled a throwback play style that emphasized getting to the paint and perfecting traditional basketball plays through pick-and-roll and designed cuts.
Tonight, a modernized style of play came out on top. In 2021, it’s extremely difficult for teams to win when they shoot 14.1% worse than their opponents.
On top of that, the Bulldogs were outmatched athletically and their opponent took advantage of it. Baylor grabbed 38 rebounds to Gonzaga’s 22 in the contest, which helped them put up 18 more shot attempts overall. The Bulldogs were smothered on defense by a deeper rotation of players. Having fresh legs certainly helped the Bears down the stretch of this game.
Timme finished with 12 points, two blocks and five turnovers. Forward Corey Kispert had 12 points on 12 shots, showing a lot of effort on both ends of the floor during his team’s collapse.
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