UConn strolls past Gonzaga 82-54, earns trip to Final Four
Field Level Media
Mar 25, 2023
Nobody was mentioning UConn as a national championship contender when March Madness began, so the Huskies have bulldozed their own path.
UConn stands two victories away from surprisingly winning the title after steamrolling Gonzaga 82-54 on Saturday night to punch their ticket to the Final Four.
The West Region final in Las Vegas transformed into a one-sided beatdown in which UConn repeatedly threw haymakers and the Bulldogs wilted under the assault.
The fourth-seeded Huskies (29-8) have won their four NCAA Tournament games by an average of 22.5 points, including three by more than 20.
"Just sticking to our script and doing what we do every single game," UConn guard Andre Jackson Jr. said. "We have the best coaching staff in the country. These guys get us ready for every game. The scouting reports are always on point."
Jordan Hawkins carried the offense, matching his career high with six 3-pointers and scoring 20 points to lead the Huskies' charge.
UConn will face either second-seeded Texas or fifth-seeded Miami in the Final Four. Those clubs play Sunday in the Midwest Region final.
The Final Four trip is the sixth overall for UConn and the first since it won the 2014 national championship.
UConn is 15-0 this season against schools not in its conference (Big East), and coach Dan Hurley said the toughness of the league helped prepare his team for this month's dominating efforts.
"What a performance by the boys to do what we did to a team of that caliber, a program of that caliber," Hurley said. "Obviously we were just playing at a super high level. But I don't think we were -- obviously surprised by the margin of victory but not surprised about where we're going next because this is who we've been for a large part of the season."
Alex Karaban added 12 points and Adama Sanogo contributed 10 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Huskies, who trailed for just 47 seconds. Jackson had a solid all-around outing with eight points, nine rebounds and 10 assists.
Drew Timme had 12 points and 10 rebounds in what likely was his final game for the third-seeded Bulldogs (31-6).
"It was a blast to coach him," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of the school's all-time leading scorer with 2,307 points. "It's been quite a ride. I hope everybody remembers him for the great competitor he was and just the awesome player he was."
Julian Strawther added 11 points for the Bulldogs, who had a 12-game winning streak halted while playing in the Elite Eight for the fifth time in the past eight tournaments.
The Huskies shot 41.7 percent from the field, including 11 of 31 from 3-point range.
The Bulldogs made 33.3 percent of their shots and were a lowly 2 of 20 from behind the arc.
"UConn was just terrific tonight," Few said. "And we didn't have any answers, especially when kind of everything really didn't bounce our way. And we can't absorb a game like that when our offense is as bad as it was tonight."
Timme picked up two fouls in the first 2:22 of the second half and headed to the bench with four personals. Gonzaga trailed by 10 points when Timme took a seat with 17:38 remaining, and things quickly got worse.
"Look, we can say what if, right? What if they didn't call a foul?" Timme said. "But the bottom line is they were the better team tonight. They made better shots. They got the 50/50 balls."
After Timme sat, Sanogo scored on the inside, Hawkins drained a 3-pointer and Nahiem Alleyne converted a three-point play to give the Huskies a 52-34 advantage with 16:39 left.
Gonzaga's Rasir Bolton drained a 3-pointer, but UConn continued its charge with four points from Tristen Newton, a layup from Alleyne and a thunderous dunk by Donovan Clingan to boost its lead to 60-37 with 14:17 remaining.
Nearly 6 1/2 minutes later, Hawkins buried a trey to make it 75-44 with 7:53 to play to continue his banner night.
"I seen the first one go in, I felt good," Hawkins said. "I was getting a lot of open looks. So I was letting it fly. I knew my teammates were going to do a great job getting me the ball."
The Bulldogs missed nine straight shots and 16 of 17 before Hunter Sallis drove for a layup to cut the deficit to 30 with 4:57 left.
The lead topped out at 33 points.
Karaban ended his 10-point first half with a 3-pointer just before time expired to give UConn a 39-32 halftime lead.
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