Creighton vs Gonzaga

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 28: GU defeats the Creighton Bluejays at the Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 28. (Photo taken by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The Gonzaga men’s basketball team defeated the Creighton Blue Jays 83-65 Sunday morning in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA tournament.

The Zags returned to the Hinkle Fieldhouse after defeating the No. 8-seeded Oklahoma Sooners 87-71 last Monday. GU sophomore forward Drew Timme led the Zags to its sixth straight Sweet Sixteen with a career-high 30 points. Freshman guard Jalen Suggs and senior forward Corey Kispert each had 16 points of their own.

On the other hand, the Blue Jays are coming off a 72-58 victory over the Ohio Bobcats. Senior guard Marcus Zegarowski led the Blue Jays with 20 points, followed by 15 points from Damien Jefferson. The Blue Jays were shooting lights out from the field last Monday, shooting 45% from the field and 42% from behind the three point arc.

The No. 1 overall seed in the tournament got off to a hot start to begin the game. Zegarowski and GU redshirt junior guard Joel Ayayi traded off three point baskets before the first media timeout, giving the Zags a 15-9 lead in the first five minutes of the game. Zegarowski continued his success in the first half knocking down timely shots, but the Zags continued to respond. The Blue Jays zeroed in on containing Kispert from behind the arc, leaving open three point shots for Ayayi and junior transfer guard Andrew Nembhard, both of whom were knocking down shots.

“When you guard us, you have to pick your poison a bit,” GU head coach Mark Few said.

Prior to a dunk from Creighton big man Ryan Kalkbrenner, the Blue Jays were on a cold streak from the field, missing nine field goals in a span of a few minutes. With around four minutes left in the half, Creighton was shooting only 1 of 12 from the field.

The Zags capitalized in that span of time shooting and defensively. The Blue Jays shot 39% from the field and 23% from behind the three point arc, while the Bulldogs shot 61% from the field and 36% from three. The Zags outrebounded the Blue Jays 18-15 but committed two more turnovers in the first half, resulting in seven points off those turnovers for the Blue Jays. Zegarowski led all scorers with 13 points in the first half while Timme and Nembhard each had 12 points in the first half.

“Coach [Few] has told me to start off the game aggressively,” Nembhard said. “… We shot aggressively and confidently and it worked out for us.”

The Zags picked up right where they left off in the first half, starting with a bucket from Nembhard in a back cut assisted by Suggs. GU would eventually get out to a 20 point lead halfway through the second half, as buckets from Suggs and Ayayi extended the Zags’ lead.

With 9:32 left in the contest, the Zags had scored eight of its last eight field goals, and the proficiency from the Zags continued in the paint. With 7:11 left in the game, the Zags had 46 points in the paint compared to 24 points from the Blue Jays. The success inside came from the ball movement and sharing of the ball the Zags are well known for. This was prominent in the game as well, as the Zags had 20 assists compared to 10 from the Blue Jays.

The Zags would eventually cruise on and win the game comfortably. The Zags finished the game shooting 60% from the field and 38% from behind the arc compared to the 41% from the field and 22% from behind the arc from behind the arc from the Blue Jays. To continue, the Zags outrebounded the Blue Jays 35-28 and out-assisted their Jesuit opponent 23-11. 

Timme led all scorers in the game with 22 points, followed by 19 points from Creighton’s Zegarowski. Nembhard, Ayayi and Denzel Mahoney each had 13 points, while Kispert finished the night with 12 points of his own.

“It’s a great win for us,” Few said. “I think it was our defense that made the difference tonight.”

The Bulldogs will play the USC Trojans Tuesday evening at 4:15 PST. The game will be televised on TBS. Kevin Harlan, Dan Bonner and Dana Jacobson will be the announcers for the game.

Vinny Saglimbeni is a sports editor. Follow him on Twitter: @vinnysaglimbeni.

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