NCAA Tournament: Gonzaga, Drew Timme and UCLA leave Portland as the class of the West
Drew Timme’s 21-point second half sends the No. 1 Bulldogs to the Sweet 16 for the seventh consecutive season.
PORTLAND – Drew Timme spoke to his team, but he might as well have been speaking to himself.
Gonzaga? Struggling early for the second straight game. And Timme? Bravado and force weren’t cutting it against Memphis’ athletic bigs. The junior forward had four points at the half , Gonzaga trailed by 10 and a run back to the national championship game for the nation’s No. 1 team appeared destined for a Round of 32 end.
“I don’t give a flying F what happens at the end of this game,” Timme said inside Gonzaga’s locker room at the break. “Whether we lose or win, we’re not going out as, uh, soft guys. Leave it all on the floor because it could be your last 20.”
Timme didn’t just say “F” and he didn’t really say “soft,” but that’s how he paraphrased it to sideline reporter Andy Katz on national television. He also dropped a pair of “shits,” but no one really seemed to mind. After the interview ended Katz turned back to the broadcast team, asked, “That was good, right?” and received big smiles in return. That made Katz smile.
Because after Timme’s 21-point second-half keyed a 82-78 comeback win and secured Gonzaga its seventh-straight trip to the Sweet 16, no one could deny that that really was some good shit.
“I would like to stop doing that. I would like to do a better job in the first half,” Timme said of a performance that came two days after scoring 22 of his 32 points in the second half against Georgia State. “Credit to coach, [Andrew Nembhard] and everyone for believing in me and continuing to push me and keep having confidence in me.”
Watching Timme in the second half, where he used an array of drives, post-ups, banks and 3-pointers to squash Memphis’ upset bid, it’s hard to believe the confidence of the 6-foot-10 Texan could ever wane. After chest bumping Nembhard, then finding his parents for hugs in the stands, Timme left the Moda Center floor in Portland to a standing ovation from a Gonzaga-dominant crowd.
“I think we’ve all seen Drew go on rolls like that and he’s more than capable of doing that,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few. “I think he sometimes feels his way into games.”
Memphis coach Penny Hardaway had a name for it.
“The Drew Timme effect,” Hardaway said. “He made some tough shots, controlled the game, got our guys in foul trouble and the rest is history.”
Nembhard scored 23 points and Rasir Bolton added 17. Battling Memphis’ big-man Jalen Duren, 7-foot-1 freshman Chet Holmgren was limited to nine points. He still had four blocks, nine rebounds and kept Duren to 3-of-11 shooting.
Gonzaga had just two points off the bench and all starters played more than 29 minutes. Timme’s 36 minutes and 47 seconds included plenty of points, yelling and a bit too much cursing.
“I tried not to but there were a lot of emotions,” he said. “…I said, basically, I love this group, we don’t deserve this but, you know, we’ve worked hard to get here. Let’s not end this now and let’s go out guns blazing — a little hard to get the G-rated version, so sorry.”
Gonzaga will face 4-seed Arkansas on Thursday in San Francisco. They’ll be joined in the Sweet 16 by UCLA, who beat Saint Mary’s handedly in the regional’s earlier game of the day.
The atmosphere for both games Saturday was excellent. A small but vocal contingent from UCLA kept things lively in the afternoon, then the Gonzaga crowd took things to a different level for the nightcap. There’s just something different about the sound a primed Tournament crowd can make. It’s like a jet engine that can start and stop at a snap.
Oregon beat this UCLA team twice this season. Oregon, whose season ended on Saturday in a non-competitive NIT loss to Texas A&M. Said Dana Altman: “We’re going to evaluate everything, make a lot of changes.”
Though the Oregon women made the NCAA Tournament, coach Kelly Graves didn’t end the season a whole lot happier than his colleague.
"I think at times our players have acted and performed entitled," Graves said after Oregon’s 73-70 double-OT loss to Belmont. "I mean, we have had a nice run. We made it at least to the Sweet 16 every year since 2017. First first-round exit in a long time. This group hasn't won anything. We haven't won a Pac-12 championship. We haven't won in the NCAA tournament, with great depth."
Between the men’s and women’s teams, this has arguably been the worst season for Oregon basketball in a decade and it will be fascinating to see how two coaches with Final Fours on their resumes adjust going into next year.
Can’t tell you how it was for fans or players, but from a media perspective the Portland Regional went off without a hitch. Traffic was a lot better Saturday than it was Thursday, there was a solid contingent of reporters from out of town and, most importantly, a broadcast team crew member gave me a bite-size Snickers after he said “I didn’t make an ass of myself like some people do” when they were doing the live shots.
— Tyson Alger