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Gonzaga Advances to Sweet 16 After Tough NCAA Tournament Win over Ohio State

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2018

BOISE, ID - MARCH 17:  Zach Norvell Jr. #23 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs shoots the ball against Jae'Sean Tate #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the first half in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 17, 2018 in Boise, Idaho.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Gonzaga Bulldogs were impossibly hot early in their second-round men's NCAA tournament game against the Ohio State Buckeyes and finished hot as well, winning 90-84 behind a huge performance from Zach Norvell Jr.

The Bulldogs scored the first 15 points of the game and were scorching hot down the stretch, putting up 28 points in the final six minutes alone. That was enough to overcome a furious Ohio State comeback in the middle portion of the game that saw the Buckeyes take a 67-62 lead with 6:02 remaining. 

It was all Gonzaga from there, however, with Norvell's 28 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals pacing the Bulldogs.

Rui Hachimura added 25 points and four blocks for the Zags, while Keita Bates-Diop (28 points), Kenny Williams (19 points) and C.J. Jackson (18 points) led the way for Ohio State.

Gonzaga won this one by crashing the boards (39-25 advantage), getting to the free-throw line with regularity (19-of-31 from the charity stripe, as opposed to 13-of-16 for Ohio State) and shooting non-free throws well (53.4 percent from the field).

And so Gonzaga's rise to prominence in men's college basketball continues: 

Aaron Torres @Aaron_Torres

Gonzaga makes it to at least the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight year. Thats something that Duke, Villanova, Kansas, Michigan State and Kentucky cant say. Kind of incredible when you think how far this program has come under Mark Few

Nicole Auerbach @NicoleAuerbach

Remember when everyone used to talk about Gonzaga never making it through the first weekend?

As Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports noted, the Zags likely have way more in the tank:

Jon Rothstein @JonRothstein

Gonzaga scores 90 and Killian Tillie tallied single digits. Really? Zags are just scratching the surface. Onto the Sweet 16 for the 8th time under Mark Few.

The Bulldogs looked as though they would make quick work of the Buckeyes, opening on a 15-0 run, though Ohio State answered with an 8-2 run of its own to stay afloat. Gonzaga ultimately took a 44-33 lead into halftime.

If it weren't for Bates-Diop and his 14 first-half points, the Buckeyes' ship may have sunk within the first 20 minutes. Gonzaga came out hot, shooting 58.1 percent from the field in the half, with Norvell putting up 15 points and Hachimura adding 14.

The Buckeyes continued their furious comeback in the second frame, taking their first lead in the game, 56-54, with 10:35 remaining. For the next four minutes the teams stayed tight, with the Buckeyes holding a 67-62 lead with just over six minutes remaining.

Gonzaga exploded once again, however, with Norvell putting up eight points down the stretch and Hachimura adding 10.

Norvell is emerging as one of the stars in this tournament. He opened it by hitting the go-ahead three with 20.8 seconds remaining in Gonzaga's opening-round 68-64 win over UNC Greensboro. And he continued it with a scintillating performance against Ohio State.

Brad Evans of Yahoo Sports may have put it best when discussing Norvell:

Brad Evans @YahooNoise

Zach Norvell ... #MarchMadness https://t.co/mIy3kx76ck

We're not worthy, indeed. The question now is whether either Florida State or Xavier, Gonzaga's potential opponents in the Sweet 16, will be up for the task.

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