Gonzaga pulls away from UCLA in second half, moves into Elite Eight

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Gonzaga is moving on to its first Elite Eight in the Mark Few era. The Bulldogs beat UCLA 74-62.

The Zags’ coach had been to four Sweet 16s prior to this one, but if there had been one blemish on his resume it had been struggling to get to the next level after failing to get out of the first weekend in five years. Hopefully, some of that discussion will slow down now, as Gonzaga has looked as good as any other team outside of Kentucky in this tournament, winning each of its three games by double-digits.

UCLA had absolutely no answers for Przemek Karnowski, as the Polish center scored 18 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and dished out two beautiful assists to Domantas Sabonis that looked like the one seen above.

Sabonis added 12 points and eight rebounds, and Kyle Wiltjer added eight points and 10 boards as the Bulldogs destroyed the Bruins on the boards to the tune of a 49-35 edge.

The first half was an abnormally ugly affair on offense despite Gonzaga’s 35-28 lead. At one point, the two teams combined to miss 19 shots in a row, an exceptionally high total. How often does that happen? Ken Pomeroy did a study back in 2012 to see how often teams miss 20 shots in a row. In all college basketball games from November 2009 to January 2012, the most consecutive misses in a single game was 23 shots. So yeah, not great.

It’s probably unfair to blame the Houston site for the offensive struggles, but it’s worth noting that Pomeroy went through and calculated 3-point shooting for the 10 NCAA Tournament games that have been played at NRG Stadium since 2008 (along with the first half), and found that teams have shot 30.1 percent on nearly 400 attempts. That also includes the 2011 national championship game, where Butler shot 18 percent from the field. It’ll be interesting to hear how the athletes feel about the venue in post-game comments.

The second half was much prettier though, as the Zags shot 47 percent from the field and grabbed 11 second-chance points off of rebounds, mostly by Karnowski. They also assisted on nine of their 14 field goals, getting terrific movement throughout the half.

Gonzaga will face either Utah or Duke in the Elite Eight, depending on who wins the next matchup in Houston on Friday.

Kevin Pangos (USATSI)
Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos drives to the basket against UCLA on Friday (USATSI)

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