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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga’s multiple scoring options too much for outmatched Sooners

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs (1) shoots over Oklahoma forward Jalen Hill (1) in the second half of a second-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Monday, March 22, 2021.  (Michael Conroy/Associated Press)

The opponent was shooting the lights out early, whatever. Down eight, shrug.

First-team All-American parked on the bench with two fouls, ho hum.

Gonzaga relied on its collective poise, three more All-Americans and another strong effort from reserve forward Anton Watson in an 87-71 NCAA Tournament victory Monday over the Oklahoma Sooners in Indianapolis.

Teams talk about having different players with the ability to step up at any time. No. 1 Gonzaga offers examples nearly every time it plays.

On Monday, it was Drew Timme’s turn with a career-high 30 points after being limited to 10 in Saturday’s win over Norfolk State. Jalen Suggs had 16 points, two days after scoring just six. Joel Ayayi had another solid performance with 12 points and eight boards.

Watson contributed four points, three rebounds, two assists and he was big defensively with two steals. He scored 17 points on Saturday.

“In my very first interview this year I told everyone, Anton Watson is one of the best players on this team,” Timme said. “He’s been big for us all year. He doesn’t get half the credit he deserves just from the impact he has on this team offensively and defensively.

“He’s really come into his own. It’s something that we really need and it’s been so helpful.”

One of the biggest stretches during Gonzaga’s latest win came in the first half when both teams’ top player – Corey Kispert and Oklahoma’s Austin Reaves – went to the bench with two fouls.

Kispert exited with the Zags up by two points with 8:05 left. The All-American didn’t return the rest of the half, but Gonzaga quickly stretched its lead to 40-30 with Timme, Ayayi and Suggs combining for GU’s next 12 points.

Watson contributed a layup, assisted by Timme, to give GU a 46-34 halftime lead. 

Reaves departed after his second foul with Gonzaga on top 23-21. The Sooners kept it close, but the offense wasn’t as productive without Reaves, who finished with 27 points.

Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger inserted Reaves when the Zags lead reached five points. The Sooners quickly scored one basket but the next four possessions ended with three turnovers and a miss from point-blank range.

“The last five minutes of the first half, they widened it to 12, and again, they’re good,” Kruger said. “They just keep the pressure on you, they keep coming at you. If you turn it over carelessly or if you take a shot that leads into transition for them, they make you pay for it. That happened a couple times, and again, we ended up fighting from behind the last 20 minutes.”

Kispert nailed three 3-pointers and scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half.