In March Madness, Gonzaga plays near-perfect 2nd half to dispatch Kansas 89-68

Kansas center Hunter Dickinson, left, guards Gonzaga forward Graham Ike (13) during the first half of a second-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City, Saturday, March 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Gonzaga guard Nolan Hickman (11) shoots as Kansas forward Parker Braun (23) defends during the second half of a second-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City, Saturday, March 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY — Gonzaga played a nearly perfect second half, busting open a back-and-forth game with a 15-0 run Saturday to pull away from Kansas for an 89-68 win and extend its nation-best streak of trips to the Sweet 16 to nine.

Anton Watson shot 8 for 11 for 21 points on an afternoon when basically everyone in a navy jersey was a star, especially after halftime.


The fifth-seeded Zags (27-7) made their first five 3-pointers of the second half, not missing from long range until 1:30 remained and the game had long entered extended garbage time.

Mark Few’s team will make its regular trip to the second weekend to play the winner of Sunday’s game between Purdue and Utah State.

Nolan Hickman finished with 17 points for the Zags, and big man Graham Ike had 15 points and nine rebounds, going toe to toe with KU’s Hunter Dickinson, who finished with a quiet 15 points. Making all the Bulldogs look good was Ryan Nembhard, who blew off a rough shooting night (1 for 6) and finished with 12 assists.

While Gonzaga was cruising, parts of this looked painfully familiar to fans of the fourth-seeded Jayhawks (23-11), who have struggled with depth, shooting, consistency and injuries — leading scorer Kevin McCullar Jr. (knee) was out for the tournament. During Gonzaga’s 15-0 run, the Jayhawks missed 10 straight shots and never got within single digits again.

A few of those misses looked strangely ugly, including when Dickinson grabbed a rebound under the bucket and looked poised for an easy bucket but could barely get the ball to the rim.

For 22 minutes, at least, this game lived up to its billing — a rare showdown between much-adored power programs. There were eight lead changes. At one point late in the first half, the teams combined to make nine straight shots from the field, trading leads almost every time down.

It ended abruptly when Ike made a turnaround jumper, then Watson took a dish from Ben Gregg on the next possession for an easy layup. It was the start of a 15-0 run that expanded to 32-4 and pushed the lead as high as 27.

Gonzaga won both its games in Salt Lake City by 21. The opener against McNeese might have been expected.

That the second one was such a breeze, even against a flawed KU team, was a surprise.

ON THE SIDELINE: Lamar Simpson, the official who called the phantom foul that helped KU lock up its opening-night win over Samford, watched both games from press row as the alternate official.

Caleb Love scores 19, leads Arizona past Dayton 78-68

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Caleb Love scored 19 points and second-seeded Arizona reached the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons, beating No. 7 seed Dayton 78-68 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

The Wildcats (27-8), who also reached a regional semifinal in 2022 in coach Tommy Lloyd’s first season, will face either the West Region’s No. 6 seed, Clemson, or third-seeded Baylor in Los Angeles on Thursday night.

Arizona’s two wins in Salt Lake City helped the program ease the sting of last year’s first-round loss to 15th-seeded Princeton.

“We’re really excited to be back,” Wildcats guard Pelle Larsson said. “I feel like it’s been a (long) journey to come back here. But I think the journey has made us stronger and this team is ready for it.”

Keshad Johnson and Larsson each had 13 points and seven rebounds for Arizona. Larsson also had six assists, and Jaden Bradley scored 12 points off the bench. The Wildcats shot 53% from the field and made eight 3-pointers.

DaRon Holmes II had 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Flyers (25-8), who were denied their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2014. Koby Brea added 14 points and Kobe Elvis scored 13 for Dayton, which trailed by 17 points in the first half but stayed within striking distance nearly to the end.

“We weren’t as aggressive as we wanted to be at the start, and ultimately, when we started with the pressure, we had some success,” Elvis said.

Arizona staved off a potential rally when Bradley capped a 10-0 run with a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a 66-51 lead with 6:51 remaining.

Two front-end misses by Holmes on one-and-one trips to the line thwarted Dayton’s comeback bid.

Dayton trimmed the deficit to single digits multiple times, drawing within 71-64 on a pair of free throws from Nate Santos with 55.1 seconds left.

The Wildcats went 7 of 8 from the line in the final minute to put the game away.

“That’s key, staying calm in those moments when they’re making a run,” Love said. “Not panicking. We stuck to the plan, and we got the job done.”

Dayton initially struggled to adjust to Arizona’s speedy offense and defensive length. The Wildcats allowed only two baskets over a 10 1/2-minute stretch in the first half. The Flyers missed 15 of 17 shots as they fell into a deep hole.

“Their pressure to start the game was disruptive,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “We were trying to run offense and we had a difficult time running offense.”

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