Disaster averted. Big time.
With 12:38 remaining on Thursday, Georgia State and Gonzaga were tied at 54. Then a Chet Holmgren layup sparked 29-4 run as the Bulldogs turned a massive sweat into a 93-72 blowout.
In short order, concern about a historic upset promptly subsided. The 2018 Virginia team remains the only No. 1 seed to fall to a No. 16 seed in NCAA tournament play.
While Holmgren put the full arsenal of his NBA lottery talent on display, the Bulldogs can thank a steady dose of Drew Timme for keeping them afloat when the outcome was still in question. Georgia State had no answers for the WCC Player of the year as he scored 22 of his 32 points in the second half. He did most of his damage utilizing his footwork and 6-10 frame in the post.
While Timme set them up, Holmgren knocked them down, scoring 14 of his 19 points in the second half to go with 17 rebounds, five assists, seven blocks and two steals. And if you’re not familiar with why the 7-foot Holmgren has NBA scouts salivating, just take a look here:
The win sets up a second-round showdown with a Memphis team featuring its own NBA lottery prospect Jalen Duren, fresh off an impressive win over Boise State. The Tigers built their own big lead before holding off Boise State for head coach Penny Hardaway’s first NCAA tournament win earlier Thursday. And it looks like Emoni Bates is back in the Memphis mix.
Sun Belt champion Georgia State put up a valiant effort that the final 21-point margin doesn’t do justice. But with starting forward Eliel Nsoseme injured in the first half and Kaleb Scott fouling out midway through the second, the Bulldogs could no longer compete with Gonzaga’s size and talent up front.
The Panthers kept things close by posting a 28-23 first-half rebounding margin while holding the Bulldogs to a 2-of-11 rate from 3-point range in the first half. A 9-of-19 effort from the free-throw line before halftime didn’t help Gonzaga’s cause. But by the time it was done, Gonzaga won the battle on the boards (54-41) and on the scoreboard by a wide margin.