Monday, October 25

Baylor reminds Gonzaga how hard it is to win, and them, everyone

INDIANAPOLIS – What does it look like when perfection is ruined? It appears that Gonzaga star Corey Kispert jumps in to shoot a triple his team desperately needs, sees the flash of Baylor guard Jared Butler’s quick response, crosses his vision, then tries to get away with the ball to dribble as he found one meter away. land. That is against the rules.

It appears that All-American center Drew Timme was forced to take a 4-meter jump because his teammates neglected the shot clock and left him stranded with no choice but to fire a shot that had little chance.

It appears that coach Mark Few was quick to get out of a man-to-man defense the Bears had been tearing up and attempting a 2-3 zone, then a 1-3-1, and Baylor found the flaws in whatever scheme they tried. the Zags. .

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It appears that Baylor coach Scott Drew is targeting his bench to summon the deep reserves, the walk-ons, allowing them a last-minute ceremony so they can tell their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews that they finished the game for the winning side in an NCAA Championship Game.

And it appears that Gonzaga’s only rookie, Jalen Suggs, left the court in tears, just two days after he was on the scorer’s table as the king of the Final Four.

If this did not end successfully, it was unlikely that it would end beautifully.

Gonzaga’s drive for a perfect championship season ended with neither of them on Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. After 31 consecutive victories came the “1” that fans of the show had been dreading. The chance to become the first undefeated winner of an NCAA tournament since 1976 quickly disappeared in the face of a surge from Baylor that Few called “aggressive,” or a derivation of that word, a total of seven times in their discussion of 15. minutes with reporters later.

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This was Gonzaga’s second appearance since 2017 in the NCAA championship game, and the second time he came out in a loss, but the first time he entered without a loss.

“It’s obvious that it’s a feeling these guys have never had to face and face,” Few told Sporting News. “But I think the nature of tonight probably pulled it off. I mean, it’s not easy, but again, as a coach, just try to give them as much perspective as possible and as it usually happens with everything, time will give them the best perspective.

“But they have been an amazing and incredible group. And I told them that they are so easy to train and so easy to travel and so easy to deal with all these COVID things that we deal with all year long. I was just in awe of how they handled everything. “.

The Zags did not lose because they play in the West Coast Conference and face less competition than the Bears during January and February. They didn’t lose because they were exhausted playing late into the night Saturday, and their overtime semifinal against UCLA ended with a 37-foot bench shot from freshman star Suggs. They did not lose because they carried a greater burden as a team pursuing an undefeated season.

“I never felt like we played that weight all year,” Few said. “I always felt like we were the bullies and we always were, I call it attack mode. And tonight we met a team that was, clearly, they were the bullies. So I think that definitely put us back on our feet. Both of us. extremes.

“And, look, I’ve been watching them all year and last year and I knew they were going to be a handful for us. Only those guards are so fast and everyone can take their own shot. They’re obviously more athletic than we are. at the rim. But I thought we might find some advantages as well, and we just weren’t able to do that. “

MORE: Live Updates, Highlights of Baylor’s Loss Over Gonzaga

They lost because Baylor is great: big, powerful, deep, and outrageously skilled. The Bears’ backcourt trio of Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler and MaCio Teague combined to go 7 of 16 from 3-point range, and backup Adam Flagler was 3 of 4.

They lost because the Zags weren’t great tonight, in stark contrast to how they had been so many times before.

The 2017 loss to North Carolina was reduced to the last minute before the Tar Heels took over the game. It was closer to the first minute when it was decided. The Zags were defeated early and often by Baylor’s dynamite guards and sturdy burly men. They were hit inside and out, on the offensive side and on D. They were hit on the boards (38-22) and on the perimeter (14 turnovers, many of them for dribbling the ball in the vicinity of multiple defenders) .

Baylor informed the Zags early that their preference for a four-guard lineup was going to be problematic. The Bears grabbed five of the first eight rebounds that came off their offensive board. By halftime, they had nine offensive rebounds, a rate of 47.3 percent, and that improved to 48.5 percent at the end. The best offensive rebounding team in college basketball this season, North Carolina, averaged 40.9.

Perhaps an even bigger issue was Gonzaga’s decision to switch at all five positions, often leaving Timme paired at one guard, often Butler, Mitchell or Teague. Those three combined for 31 of Baylor’s 47 first-half points.

Regardless of what defense they were playing, and as ineffective as it was, there was no way the Zags would win without taking some 3-point shots. And they missed six of their first seven and finished 5 of 17. Kispert, an All-American, showed his ability to play over the rim at both ends, again, but continued with a slight (but horribly timed) drop on hitting. . just 2 of 7 from deep, bringing his three-game total at Lucas Oil Stadium to 7 of 25. That’s 28 percent. He entered the Elite Eight firing .461 from deep.

“Especially in this kind of place, in this environment, the more aggressive team gets more calls. The more aggressive team makes more triples,” Kispert said. “The more aggressive team gets more rebounds. And they punched us in the mouth early on. And it took us a long, long time to recover and start playing them again. But then it was too late.”

It didn’t end well the last time an undefeated team came this close to winning the championship, when Larry Bird and Indiana State entered the title game and found their team, too, physically outmatched on the front court.

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“It’s very, very difficult to finish a storybook season,” Few said. “But listen, Baylor just beat us. They beat us in every facet of the game tonight and they deserve all the credit. And obviously we’re all disappointed here, but, like I told the guys, you guys make this far and you’re 31-0. Going into the last, last 40 minutes of the season, there’s absolutely nothing you should feel bad about. And they’ll look back on this season as time goes by as just unbelievable and unbelievable. “

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The Zags entered this weekend as if approaching an intersection. We are not much to those around Indy. We prefer left turns and roundabouts, but approaching this type of one or the other was unavoidable for a team that made it to the Final Four with a perfect record. There were two addresses and choosing one was mandatory.

On one side were the seven teams that completed an entire college basketball season undefeated and with an NCAA championship. Some of us can list them all without looking for them: 1956 San Francisco, 1957 North Carolina, 1964 UCLA, 1967 UCLA, 1972 UCLA, 1973 UCLA, and 1976 Indiana. The NCAA Tournament was first played in 1939, and only that elite group was able to complete the entire journey to perfection.

On the opposite side were the teams, an imprecise collection, that came so close to finishing undefeated but couldn’t. There were those who entered the season before stumbling at least once, and then approached the title without catching it: UMass 1996, Illinois 2005, Memphis 2008. There were those who made it to the Final Four before seeing their mark. spoiled: UNLV 1991 and Kentucky 2015, the most prominent. There were even Bird Sycamores from 1979, which fell in the national championship game to Michigan State and Magic Johnson.

All teams in either group are legendary. So it wasn’t about whether Gonzaga would be able to achieve greatness. That had already been achieved. It was about completing the job. This did not happen.

“You kind of forget. You really forget what it’s like to lose,” Kispert told Sporting News. “And every time it happens, it doesn’t feel right. And thankfully I haven’t had many of them throughout my career, whether it’s the regular season or the tournament.

“But I mean, when you’re up against a team like that that’s shooting at full throttle for 40 minutes, it’s very difficult to compete with him. So, yeah, you forget and it doesn’t feel right. I’m going to remember this for long time “.

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