Gonzaga got off to a slow start to finally play like a title contender, then beat Grand Canyon 82-70 behind Julian Strawther’s 28 points and 10 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament on Friday.
Zags senior Drew Timme brought his sweatband and handlebar mustache to March Madness and finished with 21 points, six rebounds and three blocks for the third-seeded Bulldogs (29-5), who haven’t lost a first-round tournament game. since 2008
Next up for Gonzaga is Sunday against the winner of the West Region contest between TCU and Arizona State.
Like nearly every Zag outside of Strawther, Timme was bottled up and frustrated in the first half, then came out of halftime looking like a different player. After trailing by seven, Timme’s three-pointer gave Gonzaga a 48-40 lead early in the second half.
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Gonzaga Bulldogs’ Drew Timme shoots the ball against the Grand Canyon Antelopes during the second half during the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Ball Arena on March 17, 2023 in Denver, Colo. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Grand Canyon’s Ray Harrison answered with a driving layup on the next possession. After that, Gonzaga went on a 16-0 run and 14th-ranked Lopes (24-12), the Western Athletic Conference champion, missed 11 straight shots and trailed by 22.
After the game, rowdy Grand Canyon fans, who had had reason to dream of an upset of their own for a while, had a chance to focus on No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson’s late upset of No. 1 Purdue. playing on the big screen above the court.
But there was no disturbance in Denver.
Gonzaga Bulldogs’ Drew Timme (2) huddles with teammates before the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Ball Arena on March 17, 2023 in Denver, Colo. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Harrison led Grand Canyon with 20 points and Chance McMillian had 16. Noah Baumann (eight points) made a pair of 3-pointers during a 12-4 run that helped the Lopes build a seven-point lead in the first half.
Strawther, who decided to return to Gonzaga for his junior season instead of going pro, stuck with Gonzaga early. He scored 16 of his 28 in the first half.
The second half was more of a team effort for Gonzaga, which also got 14 points and 11 rebounds from Anton Watson.
In the end, the game was much like Gonzaga’s season: a slow start, the opportunity to do more as things got going. The Bulldogs had their 75-game home winning streak snapped in January, marking the first time since 2018 that anything but a No. 1 seed has advanced to the tournament.
Drew Timme (2) of the Gonzaga Bulldogs reacts against the Grand Canyon Antelopes during the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Ball Arena on March 17, 2023 in Denver, Colo. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Harrison led Grand Canyon, the fifth seed in the WAC tournament, to four straight wins and a March Madness bid, becoming the first player since Kemba Walker (Big East) to post 80 points, 20 rebounds and 20 assists. in 2011 On Friday, however, Harrison was bottled. He took 19 shots for his 20 points and finished with two rebounds and three assists.
With his father, LaPhonso Ellis, sitting in the stands, Walter Ellis had nine points before fouling out to Grand Canyon. LaPhonso Ellis, former Notre Dame star, played in Denver for the Nuggets from 1992-98.