Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard is fouled by Baylor guard Mark Vital (11) during the second half of the championship game in the men’s Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Monday, April 5, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (Michael Conroy/Associated Press)
INDIANAPOLIS — Top-seeded Gonzaga fell into an early hole and never found a way out, squandering a second opportunity in five years to win the program’s first national championship with an 86-70 loss to Baylor at Lucas Oil Stadium.
In the final game of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, the team that spent the entirety of the season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll had no answer for Baylor’s inside strength and 3-point shooting. The Bulldogs (31-1), who would’ve been the first undefeated team to win the national championship since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers, trailed by as many as 20 points in the second half.
Guard Jared Butler went 4 of 9 from three-point range and led the Bears with 22 points, while MaCio Teague had 19. Baylor, the nation’s most efficient 3-point shooting team during the regular season, finished 10 of 22 from beyond the arc – a stark contrast from Gonzaga, which went 5 of 17 and had just one 3-pointer until there was 10:28 left in the second half.
The Bears withstood another outstanding performance from Bulldogs freshman Jalen Suggs, a projected NBA lottery pick who likely played in his last college game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Suggs led Gonzaga with 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting, but Baylor held tournament standout Drew Timme to just 12 points – his first time under 20 since an opening round game against Norfolk State – and sharp-shooting senior wing Corey Kispert scored 12 on just 2 of 7 from beyond the arc.
Baylor led for the duration of the game, winning the opening tip and going right to work on a 9-0 run. Gonzaga was held without a field goal for the game’s first 4½ minutes and the Bears led 11-1 when Corey Kispert ended the run with a 3-pointer from the top of the arc.
But the Bears continued to pound away. Jared Butler knocked down a 3-pointer to open up a 26-10 lead and Jalen Suggs turned the ball over on the next possession, allowing Macio Teague to connect on another Baylor 3-pointer, giving the Bears their largest lead of the half at 19 points.
Suggs and Gonzaga followed with a 9-2 run, allowing the Bulldogs to close the gap to 47-37 at halftime. The freshman guard converted a layup in traffic to make it a 12-point game and Anton Watson scored at the rim on GU’s final possession of the half, allowing the Zags to close the deficit to 10 points for the first time since the 14:11 marker.
The Bears extended their lead to 15 points in the second half, but Suggs led the Bulldogs on an 8-2 run that would close the gap to nine points. It’s as close as Gonzaga got and Baylor proceeded to score 9 of the next 11 points, eventually building the lead to 20 points on a pair of free throws from Davion Mitchell.
It’s the first national championship for the Bears (28-2), who hadn’t been to the Final Four since 1950 and made one other appearance in the national championship (1948).
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15:30 – Baylor 11, Gonzaga 1: Nightmare start for the Zags as they haven’t made a field goal, have two turnovers and have conceded four offensive rebounds.
Davion Mitchell leads Baylor with seven points on 3-of-4 shooting.
Andrew Nembhard made 1-of-2 free-throws to score for the Zags.
Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs has two fouls. He picked up one on a charge, then was called for a reach-in foul a couple minutes later.
14:25 – Baylor 16, Gonzaga 4: The Bears have made six of their last eight shot attempts and have the Bulldogs on their heels.
Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell each have seven points for Baylor, which is shooting 58.3%.
The Bears hold the rebounding edge 7-2 on the Zags.
Corey Kispert has three points for Gonzaga.
11:42 – Baylor 23, Gonzaga 8: The Bears lead by 15 at the under-12 timeout behind 52.9% shooting.
Baylor has also made 3 of 3 from 3-point range.
Gonzaga is shooting 42.9%, but has turned the ball over five times. Baylor has zero turnovers.
7:50 – Baylor 31, Gonzaga 14: Jared Butler has 10 points and the Bears lead by 17.
The Bears made the first five 3-pointers they attempted this game. They are 5 of 7 from 3.
Baylor has made as many shots as Gonzaga has attempted. The Bears are 12 of 24 from the field. Gonzaga is 5 of 12.
Gonzaga has committed seven turnovers and allowed seven offensive rebounds.
3:41 – Baylor 38, Gonzaga 26: The Bulldogs have made their last four shot attempts but still trail the Bears by 12 at the under-4 timeout.
Jared Butler has scored 10 points to lead Baylor.
Drew Timme has eight points to lead Gonzaga.
Baylor is 6 of 10 from 3-point range. Gonzaga is 1 of 4.
Baylor 47, Gonzaga 37: MaCio Teague has 14 points and the Bears lead the Bulldogs by 10 at halftime.
Baylor jumped out to a 9-0 lead and led by as much as 19 before Gonzaga closed the half on a 9-2 run.
Drew Timme has 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting to lead Gonzaga. The Bulldogs shot 54.5% in the half, but had eight turnovers.
Jared Butler added 10 points for Baylor, which shot 50.0% including 7 of 12 from 3-point range.
The Bears were credited with nine offensive rebounds and nine second-chance points.
Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert and Andrew Nembhard each had seven points for the Zags. Suggs played much of the half with two fouls.
Adam Flagler added eight points and Davion Mitchell had seven for Baylor. The Bears dealt with foul trouble in the half. Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua was called for three fouls. Mark Vital, Flo Thomba and Butler were each called for two.
Gonzaga went 12 of 13 from the free-throw line. Baylor was 2 of 2.
15:51 – Baylor 56, Gonzaga 45: Jared Butler has six points in the half and the Bears lead by 11 at the first media timeout.
Butler has 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting to lead Baylor. Baylor made their first two 3-point attempts of the half and grabbed two offensive rebounds.
Jalen Suggs has six points for Gonzaga in the half. The freshman guard has a team-high 13 points.
12:52 – Baylor 67, Gonzaga 51: Big sequence for Baylor leads to a 3-pointer by Adam Flagler and a Bulldogs timeout.
Mark Vital started the play with a block of Corey Kispert’s layup attempt. The Bears gathered the block and took off on the fastbreak, finding Flagler on the right wing for the 3.
Gonzaga got the Baylor lead down to nine at 58-49, but a 9-2 run has the Bears back in control.
7:42 – Baylor 75, Gonzaga 59: The Bears haven’t made a field goal in 3:34 but still lead the Bulldogs by 16 at the under-8 timeout.
Jared Butler leads Baylor with 20 points. The Bears are only 8-of-20 shooting this half, but have made 9 of 10 free-throws.
Jalen Suggs has 19 points to lead Gonzaga. Drew Timme has 12 points but also four fouls.
3:18 – Baylor 82, Gonzaga 65: The Bears remain in control at the final media timeout behind 20 points from Jared Butler and 19 points from MaCio Teague.
Baylor is dominating the glass. The Bears have 16 offensive rebounds to the Bulldogs 15 defensive rebounds. Baylor has 16 second-chance points.
Jalen Suggs has scored 20 points to lead Gonzaga.
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