Rushed Reactions: #4 Gonzaga 90, #5 Ohio State 84

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish.

Three Key Takeaways.

Gonzaga’s Zach Norvell Introduced Himself to America (USA Today Images)

  1. 15-0 Runs Aren’t Worth as Much as They Used to Be. Gonzaga came out of the gates like Secretariat this evening in Boise, blitzing Ohio State by an early score of 15-0 before anybody could get a lather worked up. And although the Buckeyes worked their way back into contention in the second half — even taking a five-point lead with 6:02 remaining, it was all Zags from that point on. Gonzaga went on a blistering 18-3 run over the next four-plus minutes, keyed specifically by a pair of back-breaking threes from Zach Norvell and Rui Hachimura that swung the momentum back to the Bulldogs and finished off a tired group of Buckeyes. From that point on, it was another Gonzaga celebration as Mark Few‘s club moved on to its fourth consecutive Sweet Sixteen.
  2. The Next Gonzaga Star is Born. Zach Norvell is a known commodity in the college basketball community, especially among those who closely follow the Gonzaga program, but the rest of America was formally introduced to the talented redshirt freshman tonight. Putting together a stat line of 28 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in 39 minutes of action, it was also his timely three-pointer from the right corner that allowed Gonzaga to get its sea legs back after taking a haymaker from Ohio State in the middle of the second half. Quite a bit better than his four-point, zero-rebound effort back in November when the two teams met for the first time.
  3. Ohio State Will be Back. Head coach Chris Holtmann‘s arrival in Columbus last summer re-energized a program, and more specifically, a pair of rising seniors who had continually underachieved during their Ohio State careers. The program was in desperate need of new blood and the former Butler coach quickly started turning the Buckeyes’ basketball culture around. The result was a team that rose from the Big Ten doldrums with a 7-11 finish last year to a 15-3 second-place finish under new management. Those seniors — Jae’Sean Tate and Kam Williams (along with transfer Andrew Dakich) — clearly bought into the new philosophy, finding a healthy balance between their talents and facilitating the rise of junior Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop. It will be rebuilding mode next season with the expected loss of Bates-Diop along with the seniors, but Holtmann has proven hungry and will have the Buckeyes back in the NCAA Tournament sooner than later.

Player of the Game. Zach Norvell, Gonzaga. It was noted above, but Norvell’s big game shot-making provided the difference against an Ohio State team that had significantly improved since the teams met at the PK80 in late November. If the Zags plan on advancing to consecutive Final Fours next weekend, it will be because Norvell played a major role in leading that charge.


  • “Gonzaga is what you want in an elite program. They have a system and players in place. It’s a credit to Mark [Few] and his program.” — Chris Holtmann, describing what he aspires to build Ohio State into in terms of a program.
  • “Their two threes were really the difference. […] it was a crushing blow… I just was told that it was #21’s [Rui Hachimura] first three since December.” — Holtmann, explaining his perception on the game-changing plays.
  • “He’s just a fiery guy with some swag from Chicago, and we need that. And then you add in the fact that he’s right there with probably one of the most clutch players I’ve ever coached… The shot before that missed by eight feet. I don’t know if you remember that one. And to come back and swish the next one. […] He’s got an impressive fortitude.” — Mark Few, describing the moxie that his star guard, Zach Norvell, carries with him.

Sights and Sounds. Make no mistake in thinking Boise was a neutral site today. Ninety percent of the people in Taco Bell Arena today were rooting for the regionally-based Gonzaga, even though the distance between Boise and Spokane is about 285 miles as the crow flies (and nearly 500 miles by car). The distances are vast in the Great American West, indeed, but that was not in the least a factor in dissuading the Gonzaga faithful from following their team. The Zags picked up most of the Boise-area fans too.

What’s Next. Gonzaga will advance to the Sweet Sixteen in Los Angeles where it will play the winner of #1 Xavier and #9 Florida State on Friday evening. Gonzaga-Xavier in particular would be a rematch of last year’s Elite Eight match-up in San Jose, won, of course, by the Zags.

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One response to “Rushed Reactions: #4 Gonzaga 90, #5 Ohio State 84”

  1. Thank you! Good luck on your next adventure. And remember no matter where you are, Zags are family and have your back!! #Zag4Life

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