The Gonzaga Bulldogs are headed to the first Final Four in the program's history after a dominant 83-59 win over the Xavier Musketeers in Elite Eight action in San Jose, California.
ESPN Stats & Info provided some context as to how big the win was for not only Gonzaga, but also its status as the premier program in its state:
It isn't often that a No. 1 seed faces the kind of doubt that the Bulldogs did in this NCAA tournament, but they overcame that doubt to punch their ticket with a complete performance that had plenty of people congratulating the program, including Doug Gottlieb of Fox Sports 1:
The Bulldogs have been successful despite some poor shooting performances from three-point range. Against the 11th-seeded Musketeers, they turned that trend on its head. The No. 1 seed couldn't miss from downtown, and it proved to be too much for Xavier.
|Gonzaga NCAA Tournament Three-point Shooting|
|First Round||South Dakota State||8-of-30||26.7|
|Sweet 16||West Virginia||4-of-10||40.0|
Contested or not, the Bulldogs' threes kept falling. While many were open due to Gonzaga's excellent ball movement, even the attempts with a hand in the shooter's face went down for Mark Few's squad, as NCAA March Madness relayed:
As Rush The Court noted, the three-point line isn't usually where Gonzaga makes its hay, but the approach worked:
Gonzaga's success from distance is a scary development. The Bulldogs are already one of the most efficient teams on both sides of the floor, and adding three-point shooting to that is plain bad for their opponents.
Nigel Williams-Goss led the way for Gonzaga with 23 points and eight rebounds, but Johnathan Williams was also big for the Zags with his 19 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
They also showed the ability to hold a lead in the second half.
After Gonzaga watched Northwestern erase a 22-point deficit in the second round, there was a little skepticism about whether the Zags' big lead was safe in this one, as the Mercury News' Jon Wilner noted:
However, the Bulldogs closed it out emphatically, not allowing the Musketeers to cut the lead to fewer than 12 for the majority of the second half.
Of course, Xavier didn't do much to help its case in a comeback. It couldn't get anything going as a team from distance. Shannon Russell of WCPO in Cincinnati broke down the poor shooting performance:
The Musketeers rode Trevon Bluiett's hot hand to the Elite Eight, but an efficient Gonzaga defense shut him down.
Bluiett garnered only 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting after carrying this team on his back for much of the tournament. He was held scoreless in the second half.
J.P. Macura went down swinging for Xavier, though. He finished with 18 points and five rebounds, and Bluiett was the only other Musketeer in double figures.
Xavier put up a fight early on, in part thanks to Bluiett's 10 first-half points, but the Bulldogs offense proved tough to keep up with.
The Gonzaga offense worked for wide-open threes, and the Bulldogs took advantage by draining eight of 13 three-pointers.
That number was boosted by two three-pointers from Nigel Williams-Goss, who hit this three off the feed from Przemek Karnowski, via NCAA March Madness. The big man was relatively quiet in the first frame with just two assists, two points and no rebounds:
Williams was right behind Williams-Goss in the first 20 minutes with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor, including 1-of-1 from three.
With the three-point onslaught from Gonzaga, the Musketeers found themselves down 49-39, even with help from an improbable basket to end the half:
After the Zags' 49 first-half points, Few focused on his team's defense going into the second half:
Not only were the Bulldogs able to clamp down even tighter in the second frame, they continued to score at will and made statement heading into the Final Four.
Few has waited a long time to break through to the Final Four, and he wasted no time in thanking his guys for getting it done, via March Madness TV:
Williams-Goss did a little of everything in Gonzaga's win, but he reveled most in the fact that his team proved doubters wrong with its tournament run, as WCC Sports' Sarah Kezele noted:
Of course, the sweetness of victory means the bitter taste of defeat for some. Xavier head coach Chris Mack was disappointed that his team didn't play to the best of its ability in the spotlight, as NCAA March Madness relayed:
Coach Mack was quick to give Gonzaga's players credit, too. Karnowski didn't put up gaudy numbers, but the coach was impressed with his ability to attack the Musketeer zone with his passing. "No team that has played our zone has had a passer like Karnowski," per Wilner.
Mack came up short of getting Xavier to its first Final Four, but he can say he maximized the talent he had by taking the No. 11 seed to the Elite Eight.