Gonzaga reached the Elite 8 for the first time in 16 seasons under head coach Mark Few on Friday night as they defeated No. 11 seed UCLA, 74-62, in the South Regional in Houston.
Despite a cold-shooting night which saw the No.2 seed Bulldogs go 3-for-19 from 3-point range, the Zags held a comfortable lead for much of the second half as they defeated the Bruins for the second time this season. Gonzaga also beat UCLA in non-conference play on the road, 87-74, on Dec. 13.
Gonzaga (35-2) struggled to find its perimeter touch in the large shooting backdrop of NRG Stadium, but they still won thanks to great post play from Przemek Karnowski and Damontas Sabonis. Karnowski shot 8-for-11 from the field and finished with 18 points and eight rebounds while Sabnois had 12 points and 8 rebounds on his own. Karnowski also added some slick assists as the Zags shot 17-for-23 from the free-throw line to help close out the game.
The Zags had off-shooting nights from junior forward Kyle Wiltjer (eight points, 10 rebounds, 4-for-12 shooting) and senior guard Kevin Pangos (10 points, three assists, three rebounds, 3-for-10 shooting) but out-muscled the Bruins for much of the game.
Byron Wesley also contributed 14 points for Gonzaga.
UCLA had 16 points each from senior guard Norman Powell and junior big man Tony Parker, but they struggled to shoot from the outside as well. The Bruins didn’t make their first 3-pointer until less than 3 minutes left in the game and shot 3-for-13 from 3-point range. Isaac Hamilton also finished with 11 points for the Bruins, who finish the season at 22-14.
If the poor shooting continues in NRG Stadium through the rest of the weekend, then Gonzaga’s Elite 8 matchup will be contingent on who can score in the post more effectively. While Duke’s Jahlil Okafor looms as a potential matchup, the Zags have to feel comfortable with the Karnowski/Sabonis tandem, regardless of opponent. The duo can play together at the same time — and also can score one-on-one in the post as individuals — and gives Gonzaga a tough matchup for Duke or Utah on Sunday.