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Gonzaga Basketball

UConn uses second-half avalanche to overwhelm Gonzaga 82-54 in Elite Eight

LAS VEGAS – UConn’s guards kept coming, one at a time, one after another, creating more distance between Gonzaga and a return trip to the Final Four with every maneuver to the basket and 3-point attempt.

UConn leaned on its biggest strength and nullified Gonzaga’s, overwhelming foul-ridden Drew Timme and the Bulldogs in the second half of a 82-54 Elite Eight victory at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The 28-point loss signified Gonzaga’s largest margin of defeat in the NCAA Tournament – the previous record belonging to an 87-63 loss to Maryland in the Bulldogs’ first-ever March Madness game, on March 16, 1995.

It was also the fourth-most lopsided loss in any Elite Eight game since the NCAA Tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

“UConn was just terrific tonight,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “And we didn’t have any answers, especially when kind of everything really didn’t bounce our way. And we can’t absorb a game like that when our offense is as bad as it was tonight.”

Gonzaga has funneled its offense through Timme, the school’s all-time scoring leader, for much of the season but didn’t have the option to do so after the All-American was whistled for his third and fourth fouls within the first three minutes of the second half.

It was still a 10-point game when Gonzaga’s forward checked out with 17:39 remaining, but UConn extended the lead to 21 points in the non-Timme minutes and the Huskies – led by the shot-making and skill of Jordan Hawkins – added to the cushion when Timme returned to the game about four minutes later.

The three-time All-American who leaves Gonzaga with a career record of 121-13 subbed out of the game for the final time with less than two minutes remaining, exchanging a long hug with Few before embracing every teammate, assistant coach and trainer before taking a seat on the bench.

“Look, we can say ‘what if’ right?” Timme said. “What if they didn’t call a foul? But the bottom line is they were the better team tonight. They made more shots. They got the 50/50 balls. Regardless of whether we want to say what-ifs, the refs didn’t control that game. They were the better team tonight.”

The Huskies, primarily, were the better backcourt.

Hawkins, the 6-foot-5, All-Big East guard, finished with 20 points despite failing to make a shot inside the 3-point arc. Gonzaga lost the sophomore guard on too many 3-pointers, and Hawkins made the Bulldogs pay, converting 6 of 10 from behind the arc.

“I think their guards controlled the game tonight,” Gonzaga guard Rasir Bolton said. “Jordan Hawkins definitely had a big one. He’s a big-time shooter. We were trying to stay locked in and trail him on pin downs, but he was getting loose. And in transition they were running.

“They hit a lot of shots tonight. They just hit a lot of shots.”

Gonzaga, on the other hand, couldn’t buy one.

The Bulldogs were held to their lowest outside shooting percentage of the year, connecting on just 2 of 20 (10%) shots from the 3-point line. Gonzaga’s previous low came in October against Michigan State (22%) while battling cold, windy conditions on the USS Abraham Lincoln Aircraft carrier.

Starting point guard Nolan Hickman was scoreless for the second straight NCAA Tournament game, finishing 0 of 5 from the field after going 0 of 4 against UCLA in the Sweet 16. Bolton was 2 of 7 from the field for six points.

“At the end of the day, they were good looks, good shots,” Hickman said. “We just couldn’t connect on them, so you can’t win like that. Going 50% from the (free throw) line and 2 for 20 on threes. It’s not our night and nothing we could really do.”

Gonzaga’s backcourt was outscored by UConn’s 52-20.

In addition to the 20 from Hawkins, the Huskies got eight points from four other guards: Joey Calcaterra, Andre Jackson Jr., Tristen Newton and Nahiem Alleyne.

UConn forward Adama Sanogo was held to 3 of 11 from the field, but he made all four free throws to finish with a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double. Sanogo kicked out to UConn’s guards when he was pressured in the post, finishing with a career-high six assists, and Jackson Jr. dished out another 10 assists.

The Huskies’ largest cushion in the second half was 33 points, with 3 minutes, 48 seconds to go. Previously, Gonzaga’s largest deficit in a game this season was 23 points against Texas on Nov. 16.

The Bulldogs were outscored 43-22 in the second half of Saturday’s game.

“To do what we did to a team of that caliber, a program of that caliber, obviously we were just playing at a super high level,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “But I don’t think we were – obviously surprised by the margin of victory, but not surprised about where we’re going next because this is who we’ve been for a large part of the season.”

Timme, who’s confirmed he won’t take advantage of a fifth year of eligibility and will declare for the NBA Draft, scored 12 points on just 5 of 14 from the field in his 13th NCAA Tournament game. He finishes his college career with 2,307 points and 301 points in the NCAA Tournament.

“Well, I mean, again, I’ll stand by it, I think he’s one of the greatest players, honestly this shouldn’t be the memory etch that we even think about, but I think he’s one of the greatest college players in this modern era,” Few said of Timme. “If you look at how much he’s won during his career, and he’s won at the highest level. He’s produced.”