Gonzaga senior wing Corey Kispert said prior to the 2020-21 season that last year’s NCAA Tournament cancellation drove himself and his teammates to “make it count.”
“March Madness is a buildup over two years,” Kispert told USA TODAY Sports in November.
Now, the Bulldogs (30-0), the top overall seed, will be playing in April.
Gonzaga dominated No. 6 seed Southern California 85-66 on Tuesday in the Elite Eight to secure the program’s second ever men’s Final Four – keeping the quest alive for the first undefeated season in men’s college basketball since 1976 when Indiana went 32-0.
The ‘Zags came up short in the 2017 national title game in a loss to North Carolina. This is longtime coach Mark Few’s best chance yet to win a championship.
“It means everything,” Few said on CBS after the game. “To do it this year, as crazy and challenging as it’s been (due to COVID-19), this group has just been unbelievable working their tails off.”
Gonzaga’s nation-leading offense was firing on all cylinders, building up a 49-30 halftime lead and never looking back. Big man Drew Timme provided the early offense, scoring 23 points, while Corey Kispert (18 points) and Jalen Suggs (18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) were also on their A-game.
“We’re not done yet,” said Suggs, who was two assists shy of a triple-double. “We play for each other. That’s what makes us so special.”
The Bulldogs only managed 7-for-21 from three-point range but scored in an array of ways with cuts and pinpoint passing with their fast moving offense that averages a nation-best 92 points per game and 55% from the floor. Gonzaga also leads KenPom in offensive efficiency.
Brothers Evan Mobley (17 points) and Isaiah Mobley (19 points) paced USC offensively on the night. The Trojans’ loss comes after fellow Pac-12 team Oregon State bowed out of the Elite Eight yesterday. The Pac-12 has had a remarkable tourney – going 12-4 in March Madness so far.
A scary incident occurred in the first half of the game, as longtime referee Bert Smith collapsed to the floor and was removed from the arena via a stretcher. According to the NCAA, Smith was alert and stable. He wasn’t transported to the hospital after the collapse, which came unprompted as no one else was near him.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.