Baylor nabs NCCA Basektball title

Baylor Bears celebrate after beating the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the national championship game during the Final Four of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium, April 5, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)
There was a symmetry about Gonzaga’s arrival in the NCAA men’s basketball championship game — the unbeaten Zags bidding to be the first unblemished champion since Indiana, the state’s flagship basketball school, last accomplished the feat in 1976.اضافة اعلان

That Gonzaga, the small Jesuit school tucked away in the Northwest on the less urbane side of the Cascade Range, rolled up with a freewheeling offense, one that would appeal to the basketball cognoscenti’s “Hoosiers” sensibilities, was all the better.

A Gonzaga victory would have also put a bow on an anomalous season that was played through the COVID-19 pandemic, when about one in five games — including a first-round matchup in this tournament — were called off and some teams went weeks without being able to play.

Baylor, though, had other ideas, laying waste to those plans with a wrecking ball defense and a hail of 3-pointers, emphatically ruining Gonzaga’s bid for a perfect season Monday night with an 86-70 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium to claim the program’s first championship.

Baylor’s guard trio, advertised as the best in the country, was as good as its billing with Jared Butler scoring 22 points with seven assists, Davion Mitchell adding 15 points and five assists, and MaCio Teague contributing 19 points. And the Baylor defense held the Zags to a season-low point total.

As the final buzzer sounded, the Bears — who were eliminated by Gonzaga in the second round two years ago — bounded off the bench and onto the court, having vanquished the team they had long been eyeing.

“It’s harder to win it this year than ever before with the stoppages and testing and the sacrificing your social life just so you can play basketball games,” said Butler, the tournament’s most outstanding player after athletes spent more than three weeks in an Indianapolis hotel, playing in front of diminished crowds and precluded from coming in contact with their families. “Having no fans sometimes, it’s just hard to get up sometimes for these games.”

He added: “It was really cool to say we did that in the midst of adversity, in the midst of tribulations, and to bring it home for Baylor, it’s amazing.”

As Baylor celebrated, Gonzaga’s players huddled in front of their bench, arms draped over each other’s shoulders coming to grips with an unfamiliar emotion, experiencing their first loss in 14 months.

“You really do forget what it’s like to lose,” said Corey Kispert, Gonzaga’s senior forward. “And every time it happens, it doesn’t feel good.”