Gonzaga's dream season ends one victory short
April 8, 2021
After defeating UCLA in dramatic fashion in overtime to win 93-90, the #1 seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs advanced to the championship game against #1 seeded Baylor Bears. For Gonzaga, it was a chance to be the first undefeated basketball team since Indiana in forty-five years. For Baylor, it was the team’s first finals appearances in team history.
Baylor won the jump ball, and on their opening possession, Mark Vital missed his first two shots but grabbed the offensive rebound on both before Davion Mitchell hit a jump shot for the first points of the game. Gonzaga started off slow with Jalen Suggs missing his two shots and quickly picking up two fouls in the first three minutes of the game. Four and a half minutes into the first half, Gonzaga found itself down 11-1. On the next possession, Senior Corey Kispert hit a three-point to cut the lead to seven at 11-4. Unfortunately, Gonzaga would get no closer to Baylor than that for the rest of the game.
Three things prevented Gonzaga from coming back in the game. The first was the number of turnovers they committed. For the game, Gonzaga committed fourteen turnovers; eight of them were in the first half as Baylor pushed out to a seventeen-point lead, 45-28. Gonzaga went on a run in the last 2:18 of the first half, to cut the lead down to 47-37.
The second factor was rebounding, specifically, Baylor’s impressive offensive rebounding allowed them to take eighteen more shot attempts for the game. Finally, Baylor’s three-point shooting accuracy kept them comfortably ahead anytime Gonzaga tried to creep back into the game. Baylor made 10 of 23 three-point shots, good for 43.5%, while Gonzaga shot an uncharacteristic 5 of 17 for 29.4%. It was the worst three-point shooting performance they had in this tournament.
A silver lining for Gonzaga is that only forward Corey Kispert is a senior, which means four of the five starters for the Bulldogs could return next year to make another run at a championship. However, freshman Jalen Suggs is considered one of the top NBA draft prospects, so it’s unclear if he will return for his sophomore year or play in the NBA next year. In pre-season polls for next season, Gonzaga is currently ranked as the #1 team in the country.