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Gonzaga Basketball

TV Take: Oklahoma keeps things interesting before top-seeded Gonzaga turns up the heat in second-round win

By Vince Grippi For The Spokesman-Review

There is a positive and negative for viewers when Gonzaga is the only men’s NCAA Tournament game on their television, as it was Monday morning.

The positive is there is nothing to distract. The negative? There is nowhere to go when the game gets out of hand. As most of the Bulldogs’ games do this season.

Not that Carter Blackburn, serving as the play-by-play voice for CBS’ broadcast crew, didn’t try to make it seem as if it was closer.

But by the time the GU women’s game began on ESPN2, the Zags’ 87-71 second-round win over Oklahoma seemed out of hand. Again.

Or was it?

What they saw …

• Early on, Oklahoma gave the Bulldog defense fits with a simple screen-and-roll action. Post Brady Manek would draw Drew Timme away from the basket and screen for 6-foot-5 guard Austin Reaves.

The top-seeded Zags (28-0) started by having Timme drop back and stay with Reaves. It didn’t work.

Lon Kruger found something that’s working against the Gonzaga defense,” analyst Deb Antonelli said. “It’s the middle pick and roll. … When (there is) drop coverage in the middle third, see Timme drop, Austin Reaves (says) ‘I can score on you.’ ”

And he did as Oklahoma built an eight-point lead.

But it stopped, at least in the first half, in part because the Sooners inexplicably went away from it, then Reaves went to the bench with two fouls. When he returned five minutes later, the game had a different feel. And the Zags had decided to change their ball-screen coverage.

They were more aggressive. It worked. It helped them put together an 18-6 run to end the half. They were more aggressive on the ball screen, doubling it at times and, with Anton Watson playing with Timme, playing their three-quarter-court trap and limiting Oklahoma’s time to attack in the half court.

• By the time the GU women had built a 10-point lead over Belmont, the Sooners were back in it. They got there by getting stops – Gonzaga went 3 minutes, 19 seconds without scoring, an eternity for the Bulldogs, as Blackburn pointed out – and allowing Reaves to attack again off the ball screen.

“They are putting some game pressure on (the Bulldogs),” Antonelli said as Oklahoma pulled within nine a few times as the clock wound down.

But Timme answered the bell, scoring seven consecutive points at one point for the Bulldogs. The sophomore post finished with a career-high 30 points on 9-of-12 shooting and 12-of-14 from the free-throw line.

On the other end Reaves was doing similar things, finishing with 27 points after hitting 11 of 17 shots.

“What a game Carter, what a game,” Antonelli said as the Sooners’ chipped away at the Gonzaga lead. “Oklahoma has made shots, they’ve kept Gonzaga out of transition and they haven’t turned the ball over in the second half.”

That was the formula. But after the Zags had built an 84-70 lead with less than a minute left, the Sooners did none of those things, having Reaves being blocked at the rim by Timme, the inbounds pass stolen by Suggs before he was, in turn, pushed from the back by Elijah Harkless near the GU basket. It led to a confrontation, a flagrant foul and, after a few minutes, another Sweet 16 berth for Gonzaga.

What we saw …

• The best information sideline reporter Lauren Shehadi shared early on came from Drew Timme’s mom, Megan. It described her son making sure he chest-bumps Mark Few prior to starting the game.

The idea of a player chest-bumping Few seems almost impossible to imagine, especially, as Blackburn said, to Few’s former players.

After the game, as Belmont rallied against the GU women, those who stayed with the men’s broadcast saw Shehadi return for an interview with Timme. After the usual questions about the win and the undefeated season, she brought up another mom-ism, telling Timme, Megan had said before the game that, if the Zags won, Drew had to shave his mustache.

The comment seemed to set Timme back. But he recovered and had a good argument for not doing it. And what was that? The game he had. Pretty sure Few would be willing to chest-bump over that.