The Gonzaga Bulldogs (28-0, 15-0 West Coast Conference) will be moving on to the Sweet 16 after an 87-71 victory over the 8-seeded Oklahoma Sooners (16-12, 9-8 Big 12) Monday afternoon in Indianapolis. Drew Timme powered the Zags throughout, notching a career-high 30 points on 9-for-12 shooting, including 12-for-14 from the free-throw line.
“I’m just glad the work is paying off,” Timme said. “Especially in a close game like that.”
The Sooners came out the gate hot from the field as they gained an early advantage led by their star, Austin Reeves. The senior guard scored a quick seven points in the first five minutes while teammate Umoja Gibson knocked down two 3-pointers. OU made four of its first five shot attempts, including three shots from deep, jumping to a 12-4 over the Zags before the first media timeout.
“[The Sooners] are a difficult guard,” GU head coach Mark Few said. “We came out with our Plan A coverage and it didn’t work.”
In order to keep up with the blazing Sooners, GU relied on sophomore Drew Timme’s ability to dominate around the rim. Following a made shot from OU’s Brady Manek to start the game, the forward from Texas immediately got the score right back with his patent post hook move. Timme led all scorers with 14 first-half points on 5-for-6 shooting from the floor. The Bulldogs gained their first lead of the game following a fast-break layup from Corey Kispert, pulling ahead 23-21.
From there, the momentum stayed with the nation’s No. 1 team. With the Sooners going cold on offense, it allowed for the Zags’ offense to gain a groove and punish the paint relentlessly. Jalen Suggs and Joel Ayayi drew multiple fouls driving to the rim from the perimeter, while Anton Watson also got involved as a facilitator.
By finding cutting guards and his frontcourt teammate Timme, the sophomore from Spokane proved himself a more than capable passer. As a result, the Sooners racked up nine first-half fouls, putting GU in the bonus early on.
A late 18-6 run extended the lead to 12 points before the break, as the Bulldogs led 46-34 at halftime. Even after OU’s hot start, it was GU that finished the first half with the better shooting performance, going 17-for-30 compared with the Sooners 14-for-31 outing.
“There’s a comfort in knowing that we’ll get going, at least that’s how I feel,” Few said. “We needed to adjust to what they were doing to us.”
It was more of the same coming out of the locker room for both teams. Excessive ball movement on offense led to more open layups while OU defenders were caught out of position. Guards continued to drive and kick out to shooters, who passed up good looks for great shots. Four of five GU starters had reached double-digits in scoring by the midway mark in the second half.
Meanwhile, the Sooners continued to go ice cold on offense. A 4-for-5 start from deep was followed by 10 consecutive misses. GU’s defense began swarming shooters on the wing, forcing guards to settle for unnecessary midrange jump shots or off-balance layup attempts. OU’s Gibson and Manek, who were both catalysts in a win over Missouri, were nonfactors in this matchup. Both went a combined 3-for-13 from the field and scored nine points to show for it.
Reeves, however, continued to give his Sooners life down the stretch despite early foul trouble in the first half. The guard torched GU defenders on the wing with his ball handling creating separation easily, knocking down multiple jumpers to keep the game within striking distance. Reeves would finish the game with 27 points on 11-for-17 shooting.
But in the closing minutes, it was Timme time.
The Sooners never found an answer to slowing down the second team All-American; double teams were not enough to prevent a career night. Free throws and post hooks carried the offensive load to ice the game, capped off with an assist to Kispert for a 3-pointer that extended the lead beyond reach for OU.
Few attributed the balanced play and sound victory to the fondness his players have developed for one another over the course of the season.
“They genuinely love each other, and that’s not corny stuff, it’s real,” Few said. “There’s a ton of fun-loving dudes that are ferocious competitors.”
The Bulldogs will take on the Creighton Bluejays in the Sweet 16 Sunday at 11:10 a.m.