INDIANAPOLIS: Undefeated Gonzaga continued to roll behind a career-high 30 points and 13 rebounds from Drew Timme as the top-seeded Bulldogs beat No. 8 seed Oklahoma 87-71 on Monday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Gonzaga (28-0) won its 32nd straight game dating to last season, passing its first real test of the NCAAs in the Bulldogs’ quest to be the first undefeated champion since Indiana 45 years ago.
The Bulldogs easily dispatched Norfolk State in the first round, but the Sooners were the first power conference opponent for Gonzaga since its victory over Virginia in late December.
It didn’t matter all that much. Oklahoma became the 25th straight team the Bulldogs beat by double digits although the Sooners fought valiantly to keep it from becoming a blowout. Gonzaga coach Mark Few still had his starters on the floor at the buzzer and screamed at star Jalen Suggs for committing an unnecessary foul with 1:05 left.
The Zags advanced to their sixth straight Sweet 16 and will next face either Creighton or Ohio in the West Region.
Austin Reaves scored 27 points for Oklahoma (16-11), and after trailing by 19 with 12 minutes left, the Sooners pulled within 77-68 on his 3-pointer with 2:37 left. It was the first 3 of the second half for Oklahoma and the first time the deficit was within single digits since late in the first half.
But Timme was perfect on four free throws sandwiched around a basket from Alondes Williams, and after an Oklahoma turnover, All-American Corey Kispert pushed the lead to 14 with his fourth 3-pointer.
Timme, sporting a handlebar mustache, was 9 of 12 shooting and 12 of 14 at the free-throw line.
Kispert finished with 16 points, as did Suggs, who took an awkward tumble on a flagrant foul by Oklahomas Elijah Harkless in the closing seconds and had to be restrained by teammates. Joel Ayayi added 12 points 10 coming in the first half when Kispert sat with foul trouble.
Gonzaga closed the first half on an 18-6 run to take control, doing it all with Kispert sitting after picking up his second foul. Ayayi, Timme and Suggs were the instigators offensively, but just as important was continuing to stymie the Sooners after Reaves re-entered the game.
The Sooners trailed 33-30 after Harkless scored, but Suggs answered with a 3 and the Bulldogs scored 13 of the final 17 points to take a 46-34 lead at the break.
Williams finished with 15 points for the Sooners and Jalen Hill added 11, but Oklahoma missed second-leading scorer DeVion Harmon. He tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Indianapolis and was averaging 12.3 points per game.
The last time Gonzaga was eliminated before the tournament’s second weekend was in 2015, when the Bulldogs were a No. 8 seed.
Oklahoma failed to reach the second week for the third straight tournament appearance since reaching the Final Four in 2016.
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