Maybe Baylor can give Gonzaga a game. The Michigan/UCLA winner could offer some resistance. Miracles do happen. It’s called March Madness for a reason.
But USC was supposed to at least provide a test for the Zags, its length and firepower serving as at least an impediment. Gonzaga laughed at the mere suggestion. It scoffed at the notion. It treated the sixth seed in the West Region like a punching bag that didn’t deserve to share the same court. It overwhelmed Evan Mobley, the Trojans’ elite NBA prospect who could wind up as the first pick in July’s draft.
Mark Few’s undefeated team took another step to becoming the first group to go wire-to-wire without a loss in 45 years Tuesday night, eviscerating USC, 85-66, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Gonzaga is the first program to reach the Final Four without a defeat since Kentucky in 2015, and the first team to advance to the sport’s biggest stage by winning its first four games by double figures since Villanova in 2018. It has defeated its four opponents by a combined 95 points, making a mockery of the tournament known for upsets so far.
The Bulldogs’ passing was brilliant. Their shotmaking was typically on target. They shredded the USC zone that had been so effective through the first three rounds, registering 21 assists on 33 made field-goal attempts, and didn’t have a single shot blocked by the nation’s top shot-blocking team.
Perhaps just as impressive, their defense -—the aspect of this team that gets overlooked — was better than advertised. Gonzaga held USC to 37 percent shooting and just four made 3-pointers, swarming the Trojans and frequently turning defense into offense.
The Mobley brothers, Evan and Isaiah, had no answer for Gonzaga’s Drew Timme, the best big man on the floor, who scored 23 points. Freshman Jalen Suggs, the game’s other highly rated NBA prospect, got whatever and wherever he wanted on the floor in finishing with a near triple-double of 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Corey Kispert added 18 for the Zags while Isaiah Mobley had 18 for USC in defeat.
The game was over early. Gonzaga led 17-4 just 5:32 in. It was 29-12 at one point and a 19-point difference at the half. The Zags put up 49 first-half points, the most allowed by USC in a half this season. The previous high was 36, and the Zags only hit two 3-pointers. By the time Gonzaga committed its first turnover, with 1:26 left in the stanza, USC had already coughed it up seven times, leading to nine points.
Timme owned the first half, scoring 15 points on 7 of 12 shooting, while adding three steals, three rebounds, three assists and three celebrations, as much of a trademark of his game as his refined back-to-the-basket repertoire. The Mobleys were productive offensively in the first 20 minutes, combining for 19 points, but their teammates were a combined 4 of 18 from the field with seven turnovers. However, they also couldn’t do much defensively. Nobody on USC could. Nobody, for the matter, in the country has been able to slow down Gonzaga.