Baylor, Gonzaga players to get paid for promoting rematch

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Baylor and Gonzaga will meet in a men’s basketball game in South Dakota on Dec. 2 and organizers will pay players on both teams who agree to help promote the game.

Complete Sports Management and Range Sports announced this week that it would put on the game at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.

Baylor and Gonzaga will meet for the seventh time, and first since the Bears beat the Bulldogs in the 2021 national championship game.

The game is an opportunity for players to cash in on their celebrity under name, image and likeness (NIL) rules. Matt Haberman, a spokesman for the organizers, said players would be paid for participating in “tune-in to the game” promotions on the network that televises the game.

Haberman said he couldn’t disclose the amount of payment each player would receive. Organizers were still seeking a television partner Thursday.

“We’re working to find a media partner who believes in providing this generation of student-athletes more opportunities as well as align with iconic powerhouse basketball brands Baylor and Gonzaga,” Range Sports president Will Funk said. “Engaging the players to help activate the game broadcast sponsors is the future of college athletics.”

Gonzaga, Michigan State to play on carrier deck

Getty Images
0 Comments

SAN DIEGO — They’re going to try to play college basketball on an aircraft carrier again, and nautical veteran Tom Izzo and Michigan State will get a return trip to San Diego Bay to face Gonzaga on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln on Veteran’s Day.

The game will be shown in prime time on Nov. 11 as part of ESPN’s Armed Forces Classic from the flat top moored at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, across the bay from downtown San Diego. The Abraham Lincoln is on deployment and is due back in port later this summer.

Izzo’s Spartans lost to No. 1 North Carolina 67-55 on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Nov. 11, 2011, in the first college basketball game on an active carrier. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama watched from courtside. The Carl Vinson conducted Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea after he was killed by Navy SEALs in a raid ordered by Obama six months earlier.

This will be the first aircraft carrier game since 2012, when only two of four games scheduled that fall were played, including one in San Diego that had to be pushed back two days because of rain rather than moving it indoors.

While the 2011 Carrier Classic was played in a spectacular setting, it ended less than an hour before rain drenched the court, just one of the hazards organizers face in staging carrier hoops games. Organizers said there would be a backup court on the hangar deck as a contingency, but that court was never set up.

Izzo welcomed the chance to play in another carrier game.

“The experience we had in 2011 when we played North Carolina on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson was one of the most humbling experiences of my career,” Izzo said in a statement. “Obviously, we wanted to win and any game against a program like that is very special, but to me, the game was about so much more than just a win or a loss.

“This opportunity to play on an aircraft carrier in front of men and women who serve in the military and are willing to put their lives on the line is an experience that is going to mean something to the young men who will play in the game for a long, long time,” Izzo added. “I said it last time and I’ll say it again, we’re going to play one of the best teams in the country and we’re going to be hosted by the No. 1 team in the world.”

Gonzaga coach Mark Few echoed Izzo’s thoughts.

“This is a special opportunity for our program to support those who fight for our country in our own small way. We’re excited to face an incredible program in Michigan State and a great colleague in Coach Izzo. I’m sure this will be a great memory for all of us,” the Zags coach said in a statement.

The aircraft carrier craze went away after 2012, when Mother Nature played some serious lockdown defense, at least on the East Coast.

In a scheduled Carrier Classic doubleheader aboard the decommissioned USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina, on Nov. 9, 2012, Notre Dame beat Ohio State in a women’s game that started in the afternoon. But a men’s game between Ohio State and Marquette scheduled for the evening never started because of condensation on the court.

That same night, a game against Georgetown and Florida aboard the active-duty USS Bataan in Gainesville, Florida, was called off after the first half because of condensation.

In San Diego, a game between Syracuse and San Diego State scheduled for the evening of Nov. 9 aboard the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum on the San Diego side of the bay was pushed back two days because of rain. When it was played in brilliant sunshine on the afternoon of Nov. 11, a brisk wind blowing across the bay contributed to the host Aztecs making just 1 of 18 3-point shots in a 62-49 loss to the taller Orange and its zone defense.

Clint Overby, vice president of ESPN Events, said all parties will consider contingencies in case of bad weather or world events that would make the aircraft carrier unavailable.

He said returning to an aircraft carrier game was “just an option that presented itself. There was no grand plan with it. It was something that was made available in terms of a discussion and we explored it and found it to be viable. More importantly, we found teams who wanted to engage in that experience and were very understanding of the logistical challenges that could be presented.

“There has always been an intrigue from coaches and participating institutions to provide a thank you back to the men and women of the military,” Overby said. “The number of teams that have lined up to play in these events, whether they be overseas or even domestically, that’s been, in our minds, very well-received by the intercollegiate basketball community. So, we’re excited about that.”

Malachi Smith, one of nation’s top transfers, joins Gonzaga

gonzaga
Rob Carr/Getty Images
0 Comments

SPOKANE, Wash. — Malachi Smith, one of the top players available in the transfer portal, signed Thursday with Gonzaga.

Smith’s decision followed news this week that Gonzaga starters Drew Timme, Julian Strawther and Rasir Bolton have all decided to return to play another season with the Zags.

Smith was the Southern Conference player of the year and averaged 19.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.7 steals per game last year at Chattanooga.

The 6-foot-4 guard will be a junior next season.

“Malachi is going to be a great addition to our program,” coach Mark Few said. “He does a lot of really good things on the floor, but his experience and leadership will also be huge.”

Smith joins a Bulldogs squad that advanced to its seventh straight Sweet 16 last season, the longest active streak in the nation.

Bolton fifth Gonzaga starter to declare for NBA draft

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga guard Rasir Bolton has become the fifth starter to declare for the NBA draft.

“To Zag Nation and the Spokane Community, I love you guys! I appreciate the love and support you all had for us as a team and for welcoming me with open arms, I am forever grateful!” Bolton wrote on social media. “With that being said, playing in the NBA has been a dream of mine since I first picked up the ball.”

It was unclear whether Bolton has signed with an NCAA-certified agent, which would leave the door open for a return to Gonzaga next season. Bolton, who played one season at Penn State and two more at Iowa State before moving to Spokane, is eligible for a second season at Gonzaga due to a COVID-19 waiver granted to all players who competed in 2020-21.

Four other Gonzaga players have submitted their names to the draft, including projected first-round pick Chet Holmgren, forward Drew Timme, wing Julian Strawther and point guard Andrew Nembhard.

The 6-foot-3 Bolton of Petersburg, Virginia, was an All-West Coast Conference honorable mention after starting all 32 games and averaging 11.2 points per game this season. Bolton led the Bulldogs with 64 3-pointers, shooting 46% from 3-point range.

Notae, Arkansas muscle top overall seed Gonzaga out of NCAAs

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
4 Comments

SAN FRANCISCO — For 40 frenzied minutes, JD Notae, Jaylin Williams and Arkansas played a maddening, muscular style on both ends that took Gonzaga out of its game – and right out of the NCAA Tournament far earlier than these Zags expected.

Notae scored 21 points despite missing 20 shots and the determined, fourth-seeded Razorbacks dashed the No. 1 overall seed Bulldogs’ title hopes with a 74-68 win in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night.

“We’ve been disrespected the whole year, so it’s just another thing for us,” Williams said. “We saw everything they were saying, we felt like they were dancing before the game. That was disrespect for us. We just came into the game playing hard and we had a chip on our shoulder. Every game we do.”

When the buzzer sounded, Notae tossed the game ball into the air in triumph, while Williams flexed and roared near midcourt. Coach Eric Musselman made his way into the stands to find his mother, Kris, for a celebratory embrace as she watched her well-traveled son coaching the Razorbacks in person for the first time.

After a throwback performance from the program that once promised “40 Minutes of Hell,” it was pure bliss for these Hogs.

Notae finished with six rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocked shots for the Razorbacks (28-8), who reached the Elite Eight for a second straight year and will face either Duke or Texas Tech in the West Region final on Saturday.

Drew Timme scored 25 points but couldn’t rally the normally high-scoring Bulldogs (28-4), who for the second straight season were favored to win that elusive national title but couldn’t match up with an athletic, scrappy foe. Gonzaga had been undefeated last year before losing to Baylor in the national title game.

“We just wanted to be physical, plain and simple,” Musselman said. “We wanted them to feel bodies. Obviously they played a really tough schedule early in the season, but it’s been a long time in conference play since they faced a team like us.”

An emotional Timme addressed his teammates afterward, then fought tears during a postgame news conference.

“It was a hell of a ride,” Timme said. “It didn’t end up the way we wanted but we came to play hard. It was their night.”

Arkansas continually challenged 7-foot freshman Chet Holmgren in the paint, and the skinny NBA prospect fouled out with 3:29 remaining. Holmgren scored all 11 of his points after halftime and had 14 rebounds in what might have been his final college game.

Notae shot 9 of 29 overall and 2 for 12 from 3-point range yet still did a little bit of everything for Arkansas. The senior guard’s 3 with 6:38 left made it 59-50, and the Razorbacks held on from there.

Au’Diese Toney’s one-handed slam with 1 second left punctuated the victory.

Toney converted a three-point play with 8:36 left by going right at Holmgren to draw his fourth foul and send him to the bench. The big man returned at the 6:46 mark but Notae drove at him three minutes later and drew the freshman’s fifth foul. Holmgren raised his arms in protest.

During one key sequence, Notae scored, then sneaked in from behind Timme for a steal as Williams held his ground on the block. Notae swatted an early shot and made a steal to get his team going. He hit the floor repeatedly to corral loose balls.

“He kept the momentum our way,” Trey Wade said.

Gonzaga trailed at the break for just the fifth time this season and never found the shooting touch that made the Zags the top scoring team in the nation at 87.8 points per game. The Zags shot 37.5% and went 5 of 21 from 3-point range. Andrew Nembhard was a non-factor with seven points on 2-of-11 shooting.

“It’s always so tough when it finally ends, especially short of the goal we all had,” coach Mark Few said. “First time we lost in this round in quite a while. All the credit goes to Arkansas. Their defense was tough to get any rhythm against. To me that was the difference in the game.”

Williams took a charge late in the first half – his 45th of the season – and drove through the lane for an emphatic dunk during a 9-0 run by Arkansas in which the Zags were 0 for 5 with three turnovers.

Williams had 15 points and 12 rebounds while Wade also scored 15.

BAY AREA MEMORY

Gonzaga’s last two visits to the Bay Area have been forgettable. The Bulldogs’ previous visit was still plenty fresh before Thursday – a 67-57 loss at rival Saint Mary’s on Feb. 26 for their first defeat since Dec. 4.

FACING NO. 1

The Hogs earned their first ever win against a No. 1 team in the NCAA Tournament.

Arkansas had been 0-5 all-time against the nation’s top-ranked team and 2-11 overall, with one of those wins coming this season. The Razorbacks beat then-No. 1 Auburn 76-73 in overtime on Feb. 8.

BIG PICTURE

Arkansas: Musselman coached both the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings in the 2000s, so this was a homecoming of sorts. His mother flew in from San Diego. … Hogs assistant Keith Smart also coached with both franchises. … Arkansas missed its initial four 3-point tries before Wade hit from deep at the 10:36 mark of the first half. … The Razorbacks lost to eventual champion Baylor in last year’s Elite Eight. … Arkansas improved to 8-5 in Sweet 16 games.

Gonzaga: The Zags committed 15 turnovers, resulting in 10 Arkansas points. … Gonzaga’s seven straight Sweet 16s is the longest active run to this round. … The Zags won the only previous meeting between the schools, 91-81 at the Maui Invitational in November 2013.

Top-seeded Gonzaga rallies in 2nd half to beat Memphis 82-78

Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal / USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

PORTLAND, Ore. — Drew Timme scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half, and top overall seed Gonzaga rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat No. 9 seed Memphis 82-78 on Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Trailing at the half for only the fourth time this season, Gonzaga leaned on its star junior to reach its seventh straight Sweet 16. The Bulldogs (28-3) will face No. 4 seed Arkansas in the West Region semifinals on Thursday in San Francisco.

Andrew Nembhard added 23 points for the Bulldogs, Rasir Bolton scored 17 and Gonzaga never trailed after a basket from Timme and Bolton’s 3-pointer with 10 minutes remaining that made it 61-57.

But Memphis (22-11) didn’t go away. The Tigers pulled even at 66 on DeAndre Williams’ basket. After Nembhard’s 3 put the Bulldogs up 76-69, the Tigers still made it a one-possession game with 32 seconds left on Lester Quinones’ 3-pointer.

Nembhard, the only consistent free-throw shooter for Gonzaga on the night, made four at the foul line in the final 25 seconds.

Williams scored 14 points for Memphis but sat a big chunk of the second half with foul trouble. Tyler Harris had 11 of his 14 points in the first half and Quinones finished with 10.

The matchup between future NBA lottery picks Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga and Jalen Duren of Memphis never fully materialized because of foul trouble. Duren finished with seven points and seven rebounds but played just 19 minutes and sat for more than 10 minutes of the second half after picking up his fourth foul.

Holmgren had nine points, nine rebounds and four blocks before fouling out in the final seconds.

For a while, Memphis looked willing and able to spoil what was essentially a Gonzaga home game a 6-hour drive from its campus. Memphis dominated the latter stages of the first half and built a 41-31 lead at the break as nervous energy filled Moda Center.

Timme erupted to start the second half, scoring the first 11 points for the Bulldogs and in the process helping land Duren and Williams in foul trouble. Timme knocked down a 3-pointer, hit a pair of tough jumpers and scored on a slick baseline reverse to erase a big chunk of Memphis’ halftime lead.

From there, he got help from Bolton and Nembhard. The trio combined for 42 of Gonzaga’s 51 points in the second half.

BIG PICTURE

Memphis: The Tigers’ season started with high expectations and ended with an impressive showing against Gonzaga. The Tigers are likely to look far different next season with Duren expected to head to the NBA. Fellow freshman Emoni Bates could follow.

Gonzaga: Free-throw shooting continues to be a major concern for the Bulldogs. Gonzaga went 13 for 24 at the line after going 16 for 30 in the first round against Georgia State.

UP NEXT

The Zags will face the Razorbacks in the round of 16. The last time Gonzaga failed to reach the Sweet 16 was in 2014 as a No. 8 seed.