Baylor Rides Defense, Three Point Shooting To Program's First-Ever National Championship 86-70 Over Gonzaga
(CBS Local)- It was the matchup that college basketball fans had been clamoring for all season and in the end Baylor's defense proved too much for Gonzaga's high-scoring offense as the Bears earned their first national championship 86-70. It marks the second straight tournament in which a school won their first championship, following up on Virginia's win in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. The loss ended Gonzaga's bid for a perfect season meaning that the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers remain the last team to finish a college basketball season undefeated.
73 years after Baylor was last in the national championship game, the Bears were able to hoist the trophy thanks to a defense that was relentless which keyed an offense that was red-hot out of the gate. They are also just the second program from the state of Texas to win the Division I men's championship, following the 1966 Texas Western Miners coached by Don Haskins.
The Baylor defense was swarming right from the opening tip, forcing the Bulldogs into eight first half turnovers. A 16-4 run to start the game forced Mark Few to call a timeout just six minutes in. The Bears lead would fluctuate between nine and 20 points throughout the night but there was never really a doubt as they led wire to wire.
While the Bears made the Bulldogs uncomfortable on the defensive end, it was easy for them on the offensive side. The best three point shooting team in the country, Baylor started the game 5-of-5 from deep. They finished 10-22. Even when the shots weren't falling they were able to dominate the Bulldogs on the offensive glass collecting 16 offensive rebounds.
The triumvirate of MaCio Teague, Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell made their presence felt on both ends of the floor. Butler led the way with 22 points, followed by Teague with 19 and Mitchell with 15. Mark Vital was the dominant presence on the glass gathering in eight offensive rebounds on the night.
Gonzaga, averaging 91.6 points per game this season, the country's highest scoring offense, was held to just 37 points in the first half. But, thanks to their ability to get to the free throw line, they trailed by just 10 despite turning the ball over eight times and the Bears hitting seven of their 12 first half three point attempts.
But, the Bulldogs were never able to find the run they needed to close the gap. After getting the lead down to nine points, 58-49, on an Andrew Nembhard layup about six minutes into the second half, Baylor ripped off a quick 9-2 run in 1:38 to open the lead back up to 16 points capped off by a block by Mark Vital leading to an Adam Flagler three on the other end.
The lead swelled to as many as 20 points and Gonzaga was never able to get it back down below the double digit mark. Despite the loss, Bulldogs freshman Jalen Suggs put together a strong performance to follow up on his buzzer beater that sent the team to the title game, scoring 22 points and adding three assists and a pair of steals.
Suggs was joined in double figures by forwards Corey Kispert and Drew Timme who each scored 12 points. The 70 total points from the Bulldogs was their lowest offensive output of the season. While it's a tough end to the season for Gonzaga, the early odds released for next season have them listed as the favorites to win the national title.
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