Gonzaga and Creighton have some recent history, and it involved players on both teams that will be main figures in Sunday’s showdown in the Sweet 16.
Current Creighton senior starters Mitch Ballock and Damien Jefferson both started in the 2018 contest. Junior starting point guard Marcus Zegarowski played 19 minutes off the bench and reserve junior center Jacob Epperson logged 12 minutes.
The lone Zags holdover is Corey Kispert, who made two 3-pointers, scored eight points and played 31 minutes.
Gonzaga racked up 62 second-half points to win an offensive shootout in front of nearly 18,759 at CHI Health Center. Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura gave GU an edge inside with a combined 49 points and 21 rebounds, and Josh Perkins handed out 13 assists.
Zach Norvell Jr.’s 21 second-half points sparked the Zags’ rally from a seven-point halftime deficit.
“He’s literally done that to us 15 times,” coach Mark Few said of Norvell, who finished with 28 points. “That takes a special confidence, a courageous player to keep taking shots like that.”
Jefferson had 15 points and nine rebounds. Ballock made three of the Bluejays’ 14 3-pointers. Zegarowski was 2 of 2 from distance and scored six points. Epperson was 4 of 4 from the field for eight points.
Kispert said recently the angriest he’s made Few was when he messed up a coverage scheme and Ballock drilled a 3-pointer.
Kispert wasn’t available in the 2017 game against Creighton at the McCarthey Athletic Center. He sprained his ankle a few days before against Incarnate Word. Norvell stepped into the starting lineup and kept the spot the rest of the season.
Norvell was scoreless in the first half before dropping four 3-pointers and scoring 21 points in the second half as Gonzaga erased a seven-point halftime deficit. Sound familiar?
“He changed the game,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said of Norvell. “He’s been an absolute killer to us in the second half the last two years.”
Ballock was scoreless in 19 minutes off the bench.