Gonzaga’s quest to convince American television host Jimmy Kimmel of the school’s existence started in 2019 when the Bulldogs’ Elite Eight run took them to Kimmel’s home region of Southern California.
Then, earlier this year, as GU made its second national championship appearance, Kimmel got the attention of Zags fans when he posed another question about the school’s legitimacy, commenting, “To me, it’s a hoax.”
A third chapter of the whimsical drama between Gonzaga and Kimmel unfolded Saturday night, when the award-winning show “Jimmy Kimmel Live” aired an NBA Finals Game Night special following Game 5 between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns.
The trivia-style game, “College Knowledge,” was hosted by actor/comedian Anthony Anderson, who filled in for Kimmel during Saturday’s show. Contestants from Gonzaga included Jalen Suggs and Joel Ayayi, members of the backcourt that helped guide the 2020-21 Bulldogs to a 31-1 record. Suggs and Ayayi, on the cusp of starting their NBA careers, faced off against current NBA players and University of Texas alums Mo Bamba, of the Orlando Magic, and Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers.
“Jimmy Kimmel has alleged many times that Gonzaga isn’t really a real college,” Anderson said during the opening segment. “I need you to prove them wrong today.”
Bamba and Turner buzzed in to answer the first question, “How many stripes are there on the American flag?” Ayayi, a Bordeaux, France, native who came to the United States to play for Mark Few’s program in 2018, quipped to Suggs, “I can’t know that, I can’t know.”
But Ayayi’s quick hands paid off the next round and the French guard put the Zags on the board, when he correctly answered: “Who was the first man to walk on the moon?”
“Uh, Neil Armstrong?” Ayayi said.
Midway through Anderson’s next question – “Who developed Einstein’s theory of relativity?” – Suggs jumped the gun, buzzing in before Anderson could complete his thought. Scratching his head, Suggs asked, “Do we get a telephone to the audience? Phone a friend?”
He finally provided an answer, “Einstein?” to give Gonzaga 10 more points and a 20-10 lead.
“Gonzaga, maybe Jimmy Kimmel was right about your university,” Anderson said.
The Longhorn duo rattled off two more correct answers to go up 30-20, but missed on the next one, “What is the human body’s largest organ?” Suggs and Ayayi came up with the right answer, “skin,” to tie the score at 30.
But unlike in their Final Four matchup with UCLA, Suggs and Ayayi couldn’t muster a buzzer-beater to take down Bamba and Turner. The Longhorns were quick to the horn, buzzing in before Anderson finished his final question, “What is the name for the process plants use to turn sunlight …”
At almost the same time, Bamba and Turner blurted out, “Photosynthesis,” to secure the 40-30 win.
“Texas, you win,” Anderson announced. “Gonzaga, you’re not a real university.”
It won’t be long before the Bulldogs have a chance to avenge the loss, though Suggs and Ayayi won’t be there to see it. Gonzaga, a projected preseason No. 1, and Texas, which could field a top-10 team under coach Chris Beard, are playing the first leg of a home-and-home series this year in Spokane. The teams will meet again in Austin during the 2022-23 season.
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