Pac-12 in Elite Eight: No. 1 Gonzaga Crushes USC

Zags' freshman Jalen Suggs barely misses a triple-double; USC denied first trip to the Final Four since 1954
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Although USC steamrolled its first three NCAA tournament opponents by an average margin of 21.3 points, the Trojans were no match for No. 1 Gonzaga in an Elite Eight game on Tuesday in Indianapolis.

The unbeaten Zags (30-0) dominated from start to finish in an 85-66 victory over USC, enabling Gonzaga to remain on track to be the first team in 45 years to finish the season as an unbeaten national champion.

Gonzaga freshman guard Jalen Suggs, a second-team All-American, nearly had a triple-double, finishing with 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Gonzaga has defeated its four tournament foes by an average margin of 24 points.

Gonzaga advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 2017, when it lost to North Carolina in the championship game. That was the Zags' only previous trip to the Final Four. In Saturday's national semifinals, Gonzaga will face the winner of the UCLA-Michigan game.

Gonzaga's three stars had big games. Besides Suggs' production, second-team All-American Drew Timme had 23 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals, and first-team All-American Corey Kispert added 18 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Pac-12 player of the year Evan Mobley finished with 17 points and five rebounds, but did not have any blocks. In fact, USC as a team is seventh in the country in blocks at 5.2 a game, but did not block a single Gonzaga shot on Tuesday. Mobley's older brother, Isaiah Mobley, had 19 points and seven rebounds for the Trojans, who were limited to 37.7 percent shooting.

The Pac-12 is 0-for-2 in Elite Eight games, with UCLA's game against Michigan remaining later Tuesday. Pac-12 teams have a 12-4 record in the tournament, though.

USC (25-8) was a hot team cominglock a single Gonzaga shot.  into Tuesday's game and the Trojans were hoping to get to the Final Four for the first time since 1954, but the Zags ended those hopes quickly.

Gonzaga dominated the first half, which ended with the Bulldogs holding a 49-30 lead.

Of all the impressive statistics Gonzaga racked up over the first 20 minutes the most impressive one was that the Zags committed just one turnover despite playing at a fast pace that nearly got them to 50 points at the midpoint.

USC, which was trying to slow the pace, had seven turnovers in the first half, including three on their first four possessions, helping the Zags score the first seven point of the game.

Timme scored 13 points in the first eight minutes of the game, and the Bulldogs led by as many as 21 points with 6:38 left in the half.

Timme had 15 first-half points and Jalen Suggs had 11 as the Zags shot 54.1 percent in the first half against a USC team that ranks fourth in the country in field-goal percentage defense (38.6 percent).

The Zags pushed their lead to as many as 24 points midway in the second half, and the Trojans never mounted a serious challenge.

Referee Bert Smith collapsed with 15:44 left in the first half.  After being on the ground for several minutes he regained consciousness and was taken off the court on a stretcher. Reportedly he is OK. The sequence is noted in the video below

Gonzaga entered the NCAA tournament looking to become the first team to finish the season as an undefeated national champion since Indiana turned the trick in 1976.

Since then four teams have entered the NCAA tournament undefeated, and three of them got to the Finals Four, but none of them captured the title. Indiana State lost in the finals to Michigan State in 1979, UNLV lost in the semifinals to Duke in 1991, and Kentucky was beaten by Wisconsin in the semifinals in 2015. The only unbeaten team in that span that did not get to the Final Four was Wichita State, which lost in the second round to Kentucky in 2014.

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Cover photo of Drew Timme and Evan Mobley is by Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports

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