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Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs returns to form after pep talk from Paige Bueckers

UPDATED: Tue., March 30, 2021

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs (1) drives on USC’s Isaiah Mobley (3) during the first half of an Elite Eight game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Tuesday.  (Michael Conroy/Associated Press)
Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs (1) drives on USC’s Isaiah Mobley (3) during the first half of an Elite Eight game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Tuesday. (Michael Conroy/Associated Press)

Jalen Suggs sat down for a postgame Zoom media session wearing a freshly cut net around his neck.

“Coach (Mark) Few gave it to me,” Suggs said. “I thought he was going to give it to me for a second and he said, ‘No, you keep it.’ I didn’t want to carry it, so I kind of just threw it on my neck.”

The Zags trimmed the net in celebration after earning a spot in the Final Four with an easy 85-66 victory over USC. Suggs played a major role in Gonzaga’s latest double-digit victory.

The freshman point guard flirted with a triple-double with his finest game of the tournament. He racked up 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Suggs made a pair of 3s and 7 of 11 shots overall.

He’d been a little off his game, committing 14 turnovers and making 10 of 28 shots while averaging 8.7 points in Gonzaga’s first three tourney wins. He credited longtime friend Paige Bueckers, the standout freshman at UConn, with an assist in helping him return to form.

Suggs texted and FaceTimed with Bueckers after she scored 28 points to help the Huskies outlast Baylor 69-67 on Monday night. Suggs said he was pacing and “extremely nervous” watching the Huskies hold on.

“She said some things that really helped me,” said Suggs, who grew up near Bueckers in Minnesota. “I’ve been kind of struggling, trying to get my footing in these tournament games. Of course, seeing her go out and play great like she did and then talking afterwards, she said some words that kind of got me uplifted. It got me going.

“It was a great game (for UConn). She’s the GOAT for a reason.”

Suggs had a big first half with 13 points, six boards and five assists to put USC in a 49-30 hole. He was one of several defenders that took turns on Trojans’ point guard Tahj Eaddy, who scored 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting.

Suggs called his decision to come to Gonzaga “the best decision I’ve ever made.” He said he wanted to play for a winning program that carried that success into the NCAA Tournament, but he also wanted “the family piece.”

“I didn’t want to come and be another piece of the puzzle just so they could use me for these six, seven months, get wins and kind of ship me off to the next part of my journey,” he said. “From the day these guys started recruiting me, they were straight, they were up front. They treated me like I was one of their own honestly, like I was part of their family from Day One.”

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