Youth leads Gonzaga past Ohio State
Zach Norvell Jr. pulled up for 3-pointers, drove fearlessly to the rim and bulled his way into the trees to snare rebounds.
A spectator during Gonzaga’s Final Four run a year ago, the confident, extroverted freshman could be the ticket for a return trip.
Norvell had 28 points, hit six 3-pointers and grabbed 12 rebounds, leading Gonzaga back into the Sweet 16 with a 90-84 victory over Ohio State in the West Region on Saturday night.
A redshirt last season, Norvell averaged 12.3 points to help Gonzaga sweep the WCC regular-season and tournament titles.
The 6-foot-5 shooting guard has elevated his game on the sport’s biggest stage, hitting a late tiebreaking 3-pointer against UNC-Greensboro in the opening round.
He led Gonzaga (32-4) into the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight season — two wins from a second straight Final Four.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a big early lead, withstood a second-half Ohio State charge and made the big plays down the stretch to earn a spot in the West Region semifinals.
Rui Hachimura added 25 for Gonzaga.
The resilient-all-season Buckeyes (25-9) rallied from an abysmal start and an 11-point halftime deficit to take a brief second-half lead.
Keita Bates-Diop had 28 points and Kam Williams 19 for Ohio State.
“They are really good and could make another Final Four run,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann.
The Zags looked a little rusty in their opening 68-64 win over UNC-Greensboro. They looked more like the team that blew out BYU in the WCC title game early against the Buckeyes.
Gonzaga scored the game’s first 15 points while hitting six of nine shots and blocking two of Ohio State’s. The Buckeyes had three of their first seven shots roll off the rim early and didn’t score until Jae’Sean Tate hit a 3-pointer at 14:18
Ohio State righted itself on offense, but struggled to slow the zigging Zags, who made 18 of 31 shots to lead 44-33 at halftime.
“We weren’t locked in on defense and just tried to stay calm,” Bates-Diop said. “I’m proud of how we fought back.”
The Buckeyes got even more shots to fall coming out of halftime and forced a rash of Gonzaga turnovers during a 12-2 run to go up 58-54.
Gonzaga answered with an 11-0 run, going up 73-67 on Hachimura’s 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer — a run that propelled them back to the Sweet 16.