The Gonzaga Bulldogs are Elite for the fourth time in the last six years following an 83-65 drubbing of the No. 5 seed Creighton Blue Jays in the Sweet Sixteen.
Transfer guard Andrew Nembhard scored 17 points and dished out eight assists while second team All-American Drew Timme contributed 22 points to send the Blue Jays back to Omaha after their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1974.
“This is a great win for us. Once again, I really thought it was our defense that made the difference tonight. They’re a scary offensive unit, especially when you’re preparing for them,” Head Coach Mark Few said following the victory.
The Zags had to wait for six hours before finding out their opponent on Tuesday will be the Trojans of the University of Southern California. The quick turnaround from a Sunday to a Tuesday game is a challenge that Few is familiar with.
“This is where having a great staff like the staff I have, that’s why they’ve become so valuable,” Few said. “It’s a really quick turnaround. We probably won’t do anything more than a walk-through tomorrow to rest our guys. You get up the next day and it’s gameday. We need to be rested and ready to roll.”
Against the Jays, Jalen Suggs and Co. were tasked with slowing down standout point guard Marcus Zegarowski. Against the Trojans, Suggs will be looking at another future top five NBA draft pick in big man Evan Mobley.
Mobley is a hyper-athletic seven-footer with three-point range that boasts averages of 16.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. Against the University of Oregon, Mobley scored 10 points while grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out six assists in a commanding win over their conference foe. The Trojans finished second in the regular season to Oregon in the PAC-12.
Although 10 points may seem modest, Mobley made his presence known by driving home a two-handed jam over a hapless Oregon Duck in the second half.
Mobley has played no small part in guiding the No. 6 seed Trojans to its first Elite Eight since 2001 and only the fourth Elite Eight appearance in school history. The Trojans have not lost since its PAC-12 semifinal defeat to the University of Colorado. Andy Enfield’s squad has taken down No. 11 Drake, No. 3 Kansas, and No. 7 Oregon in the tournament.
Mobley will present the toughest test of the season for 6’10 Drew Timme. Although Timme has matched up with formidable centers like Luka Garza, Oscar Tshiebwe, Matt Haarms, and David McCormack, none have presented the combination of size, speed, defensive ability, and shooting prowess that Mobley does.
Joining Mobley in his pursuit to upset the No. 1 Zags is his older brother Isaiah Mobley. The eldest Mobley stands slightly shorter at 6’10 and isn’t as lethal as Evan, but the 2019 McDonalds All-American has talent in spades.
Complementing the front court pairing of Mobley’s is redshirt senior Tahj Eaddy. If that name sounds familiar, it should. Eaddy began his career at Southeast Missouri State before transferring to WCC mainstay Santa Clara. Eaddy played two seasons for the Broncos and was named to second-team All-WCC in 2018-2019.
This season, Eaddy helped the Trojans to two victories against his former conference including a 16-point performance in a 79-53 win over BYU on Dec. 1. The veteran guard poured in 20 points on 7-11 shooting in the victory over the University of Oregon.
USC will rely on their veteran savvy mixed with their Mobley youth movement to slow down the Zags and hand them their first loss since February of 2020. The Trojans will be the stiffest defensive team the Zags have faced this tournament as their length and athleticism have created fits for offensively talented Jayhawks and Ducks alike.
“They’re fired up for the next challenge,” Few said. “We know we’ll have to play great to move on.”
The Zags are aiming for win No. 30 and a return trip to the Final Four for the second time in program history while the Trojans are eyeing their first Final Four appearance since 1954.
The game will be aired on TBS at 4:15 Pacific on Tuesday, March 29th.