Baylor denied Gonzaga a perfect season as it upset the Bulldogs 86-70 to win the final of the NCAA Championship on Tuesday (AEDT).
Gonzaga qualified for the decider of March Madness — the prestigious NCAA tournament that pits 68 American colleges against each other in a knockout competition — after a thrilling long-range buzzer-beater on the weekend but there was to be no repeat of those heroics this time around.
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Jalen Suggs sent the US into meltdown with his incredible three-pointer to topple UCLA but Gonzaga faltered at the final hurdle to lose its first game of the season at the worst possible time, failing in its bit to become the first university team in more than 45 years to remain undefeated across an entire campaign.
Baylor, in the title game for the first time in 73 years, won its first crown after leading from start to finish. It was the better team on the perimeter and in the paint. It was the far better defensive team. And now it is the national champion.
His three guards were a menace. Davion Mitchell created havoc at both ends of the floor with his quick hands and shifty feet, notching 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. Jared Butler scored a team-high 22 points and added seven assists, while MaCio Teague chipped in with 19 points.
It was a bloodbath on the glass, 38-22, in favour of Baylor. Mark Vital had nearly double the amount of offensive rebounds (eight) than Gonzaga had as a team (five).
It was a team effort from Baylor.Source:Getty Images
The Bears ruined Gonzaga’s unbeaten run.Source:Getty Images
Considering how one-sided the first half felt, how well Baylor started and how shaky Gonzaga performed on the defensive end, a 10-point halftime deficit felt fortunate.
The Bears held multiple 19-point leads — the largest deficit Gonzaga has faced this season — after running out to a 9-0 edge. They hit their first five three-pointers and burned Gonzaga almost every time it turned the ball over, turning those eight miscues into 13 points.
The game’s opening possession foretold the first 20 minutes. Vital got two offensive rebounds and Mitchell sank an open jump shot. Baylor started like it was shot out of a cannon, getting to all the 50/50 balls, whizzing past Gonzaga defenders and creating deflections and turnovers.
Butler and Teague combined for 24 first-half points on 10 of 16 shooting, getting anything they wanted against the Zags, who seemed a step slow following Sunday’s overtime thriller.
Suggs picked up two fouls in the opening 3:04, and was limited to seven first-half points, creating ample problems. Gonzaga did finish the half well, going on a 9-2 burst to get within 47-37 on Anton Watson’s lay-up in the final seconds.
Gonzaga came out in a zone to start the second half, to poor results as Butler sank a pair of deep three-pointers.
Suggs was aggressive coming out of the locker room. Forcing his way into the paint, he scored on three straight possessions around the rim, and when Andrew Nembhard scored in the lane, the Zags were down just nine.
Their momentum, however, stalled. Corey Kispert was blocked on a drive, leading to an Adam Flager three-pointer, and the lead was back to 16 with 12:52 left. Soon, it ballooned to 20.
The rout was on. Gonzaga didn’t have another miracle in them.
We are the champions.Source:AFP
Winners are grinners.Source:AFP
With New York Post
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