Gonzaga kept its perfect season alive and inched closer to making history.
The Zags, the No. 1 ranked team in the nation and No. 1 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament, dispatched No. 5 seed Creighton, 83-65, in Sunday’s Sweet 16 game at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
The win was Gonzaga’s 29th this season without a loss and it sends it to a Tuesday night Elite Eight game against the winner of Sunday’s late Michigan-Florida State game.
Gonzaga is the first team to enter the NCAA Men’s Tournament undefeated since Kentucky in 2014-15.
Before Kentucky, which was knocked out in the Final Four, Wichita State lost its undefeated season in the second round in 2014, UNLV lost in the Final Four in 1991, Indiana State lost in the title game in 1979 and Rutgers lost in the Final Four in 1976.
The Zags are now three wins away from becoming the first undefeated national champion since Indiana finished 32-0 in the 1975-76 season.
Gonzaga, which has been to the NCAA Tournament in each of the past 22 years (eclipsed by only longer streaks by Kansas and Michigan), is trying to win its first-ever national championship. The Zags made it to the title game in 2017 and lost to North Carolina.
“It’s getting harder and harder to find something that’s never been done in this program,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few told reporters after a win over Loyola Marymount on Feb. 27.
“These guys are on a mission right now,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said before Sunday’s game.
Gonzaga, which was favored over Creighton by 13 ½ points, leads the nation not only in points scored per game (92.1) but margin of victory (23.5 points).
Drew Timme and his handlebar mustache led the Zags with 22 points and had six rebounds. Andrew Nembhard scored 17 points and had eight assists. Dynamic freshman point guard Jalen Suggs had nine points and six assists. And Joel Ayayi, a junior guard from France, scored 17 points and had eight assists.
Of more news than those who led the Zags in scoring was the fact that they were able to dust Creighton with leading scorer Corey Kispert having a quiet night offensively, with 12 points, two in the furst half.
That’s an illustration of how diverse and unselfish this Gonzaga team is and why it’s so difficult to beat.
Creighton, playing in its first Sweet 16 since 1974 — before there was such a name as the “Sweet 16,” It was led by Marcus Zegarowski’s 19 points. Denzel Mahoney scored 13, Christian Bishop scored 12.