© Reuters. NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Baylor vs. Gonzaga
Baylor star Jared Butler claims he was unaware of the outcome when the Bears frantically opened the NCAA tournament championship game Monday night.
He didn't really need to look to know, however, that things were going exceptionally well against the undefeated Gonzaga.
"I knew we would go big at some point because we hit and we didn't hit them," said Butler. "It was electrifying. Everyone mounted. We clicked on all of the cylinders."
Butler made four 3-points, 22 points and seven assists as Baylor turned Gonzaga's dream of the perfect season into a nightmare with a wire-to-wire 86-70 win at Indianapolis.
MaCio Teague added 19 points as the Bears (28-2) won their first national title by prevailing in the battle for # 1. Davion Mitchell contributed 15 points, six rebounds and five assists, and Adam Flagler scored 13 points for Baylor.
Jalen Suggs scored 22 points for Gonzaga (31-1), whose 35-game winning streak was halted. The Bulldogs attempted to become the first undefeated national champion since Indiana in 1975-76.
Drew Timme and Corey Kispert each added 12 points to Gonzaga, falling up to 20 points as they lost for the first time since a 91-78 loss at BYU on February 22, 2020.
"You really forget what it's like to lose," said Kispert. "But when you go up against a team like this that only shoots all cylinders for 40 minutes, it's really hard to compete with them."
"So you kind of forget about it and it doesn't feel good. I'll remember it for a long time."
Named Most Outstanding Player of the Last Four, Butler and his teammates have taken Baylor to unprecedented heights.
Bears coach Scott Drew promised the program could win a national title when it was discontinued 18 years ago. This despite Drew's arrival amid an ugly scandal in which player Patrick Dennehy was shot and killed by teammate Carlton Dotson and then coach Dave Bliss tried to cover it up before it was revealed and he was fired.
Serious violations were exposed and the bears were severely penalized and went between 21 and 53 in Drew's first three years before things started to turn. But he sees the path to the title on Monday as something that began when he had to fill out rosters with multiple inspections.
"If you go into every game, are 30- or 40-point underdogs and half of your team is accessible, as a coach you know whether we can only keep it within 20 or 10 in the first half …", said Drew of the early years of his tenure.
The Bulldogs have lost in the title game for the second time in the last four NCAA tournaments.
Gonzaga had reduced his deficit to nine at 14:29 before the Bears regained control with a 9-2 push.
Mark Vital scored inside and Butler added two free throws. Timme scored on the inside for the Bulldogs, but Teague layup to follow and Flagler let off a 3-pointer to make it 67-51, 12:55.
More than two minutes later, Mitchell made two free throws to give Baylor the game-high 20-point lead at 73-53.
The Bulldogs got no closer than 13 the rest of the way as they joined Ohio State (1961) and Indiana State (1979) as teams that lost in the championship game after starting with a flawless record.
Gonzaga's manager Mark Few said he was reminding his players of what an amazing season they had put together.
"I said you can't go 31-0 into last night and get hit and feel bad," few told CBS. "It was just an amazing run that we were on. We ran college basketball from start to finish …
"I said this will pass and you have to give Baylor a lot of credit and remember what an amazing, amazing year and what an amazing achievement it is to get to this point."
Baylor made 10 out of 23 from 3-point range and shot a total of 44.8 percent while defeating Gonzaga for the first time in six all-time meetings. The Bears had a dominant rebound advantage of 38:22, racking up 16 in the offensive boards against the five Bulldogs.
Vital had 11 rebounds – eight on the offensive – for Baylor.
The Bulldogs shot 51 percent and were 5 of 17 behind the arch.
Baylor made its only previous appearance in the NCAA title game in 1948 when it lost 58-42 to Kentucky.
Teague scored 14 points and Butler added 10 when the Bears were 47:37 ahead at halftime.
For the first 6 1/2 minutes, Gonzaga appeared to be caught in a celebratory hangover from Suggs' wonderful shot against UCLA on Saturday. The bears scored the first nine points and took the lead 21: 6.
Butler and Teague dug 3-pointers in a row – which Baylor does 5 of 5 from afar – to increase the advantage to 29-10 just before the middle of the half.
The Bulldogs finished half-time on a 9-2 run when Anton Watson's race to catch up, 2.5 seconds ahead, reduced Baylor's lead to 10.
Butler made two 3-pointers in the first 61 seconds of the second half as the Bears took a 53-39 lead.
A short time later, Andrew Nembhard drove to a layup to bring Gonzaga's deficit down to 58-49. This was the first time the Zags were in single digits since 13-4.
Gonzagas Suggs and Timme joined Baylors Butler and Mitchell on the All-NCAA tournament team. The other member was Johnny Juzang from UCLA.
– Field level media