The No. 8 Gonzaga Bulldogs will play for a championship in November.
A Battle 4 Atlantis championship, that is.
Gonzaga defeated the No. 11 Oregon Ducks 73-72 in overtime in Thursday's Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals in Nassau. The Bulldogs are a perfect 8-0 on the campaign and now have a marquee victory that should hold up all the way to Selection Sunday after Filip Petrusev and Corey Kispert led the way.
Oregon is now 6-1 on the season after Payton Pritchard's potential game-winning shot rimmed out.
Notable Player Stats
- GON F Filip Petrusev: 22 points and 15 rebounds
- GON F Corey Kispert: 17 points and seven rebounds on 5-of-8 shooting from deep
- GON G Joel Ayayi: 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals
- ORE G Payton Pritchard: 17 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals
- ORE G Chris Duarte: 16 points and nine rebounds
Gonzaga's Balanced Attack, Kispert's Shooting Lead the Way
Gonzaga's balanced offense has been the story of its season to this point.
Six players are averaging double-digit scoring totals with Petrusev battling down low and Killian Tillie and Kispert serving as matchup problems who can extend beyond the arc. Tillie never found the touch against the Ducks before fouling out, but Kispert put the team on his back in crunch time in a showdown with Pritchard.
Kispert drilled a three to go up four in the final two minutes of regulation before Pritchard cut the lead to two. They traded threes from there before Chris Duarte drained two free throws with seven seconds left to force overtime.
While Kispert delivered in the clutch, Petrusev was too much for Oregon's frontcourt throughout the contest. Joel Ayayi also provided another scoring option with three triples and the ability to slice through the defense to set up opportunities for himself and others.
Oregon contained everyone else outside of Myles Powell during Wednesday's win over Seton Hall, but the Bulldogs had far too many dangerous options in the semifinals.
It was a sign of things to come for a group that is fourth in the country in Ken Pomeroy's pace-adjusted offensive ratings. As long as opponents are unable to key on just one or two players, Gonzaga will be a threat to win every one of its games.
Oregon's Bahamas Trip of Comebacks Falls Short
Oregon is getting plenty of practice for the nail-biting scenarios of March Madness in the Bahamas.
The Ducks fell behind by 19 points in Wednesday's win over Seton Hall before turning to a press defense and trapping the Pirates ball-handlers throughout the second half. The pressure set the stage for the comeback, and Pritchard seized the moment with his leadership and made a number of critical plays down the stretch.
Oregon went into immediate comeback mode again during Thursday's contest, falling behind 24-7 out of the gate less than 24 hours after earning its last win.
The formula was the same for the Pac-12 representative, as it turned to the press again and relied on Pritchard and Duarte to carry the offense. Pritchard overcame a slow shooting start and drilled a three-pointer to take the lead with less than 12 minutes remaining and spearheaded a defense that was swarming Gonzaga's perimeter shooters to stay close.
He also traded blows with Kispert with the game hanging in the balance but was unable to deliver the final blow in overtime after Drew Timme gave the Bulldogs the lead with a free throw.
Both teams will finish their tournament Friday. Gonzaga plays Michigan in the championship game, while the Oregon plays North Carolina in the third-place game.