LAS VEGAS — Jordan Hawkins scored 20 points and UConn beat its fourth straight NCAA tournament opponent and secured its first trip to the Final Four in nine years with an 82-54 blowout against Gonzaga on Saturday night.
The Huskies (29-8) have felt right at home in their first extended March Madness run since winning the 2014 national championship, playing their best basketball of an up-and-down season.
“The Big East Conference is the best conference in the country, so we’ve been through some struggles,” said UConn coach Dan Hurley. “But when we got out of that league and started playing non-conference teams again, we were back with this team that looked like the best team in the country.”
Controlling the normally efficient Bulldogs at both ends in the West Region Finals, UConn built up a 23-point lead early in the second half to waltz straight into the final section of the bracket.
The Huskies’ two first-round eliminations in the NCAA tournament under Hurley are now well reflected in the rearview mirror.
“If you play for him, you have to live up to that standard or you won’t be out there,” UConn guard Andre Jackson Jr. said of Hurley.
These elite huskies did what the UConn women exceptionally couldn’t and are headed to Houston where they will play either Texas or Miami.
The Bulldogs (31-6) didn’t have the same second-half magic as they did in a last-second win over UCLA in the Elite Eight.
Gonzaga allowed UConn to hit a late run at halftime to take a seven lead and fell completely apart after All-American Drew Timme went on the bench with his fourth foul early in the second half.
The Zags shot 33% from the field – and just 7 of 29 in the second half – and went 2 of 20 of 3 to stumble on their bid for a third Final Four since 2017.
Timme had 12 points and 10 rebounds and received a hearty ovation after being pulled out of his last collegiate game with 1:50 left.
Alex Karaban scored 12 points and Adama Sanogo had 10 points and 10 rebounds for UConn.
The Zags started like they had a Las Vegas hangover, firing two air-balled 3-pointers and a wild bishop from Timme. After Gonzaga shook out the cobwebs, the Bulldogs held the Huskies in check with hard hedges on screens and Timme, who sagged off Jackson to protect the lane, with the defense.
UConn countered by putting the ball in the strong hands of Sanogo, the moderator. The UConn big man ripped apart Gonzaga’s doubles teams for five first-half assists, including two for layups. Karaban hit a 3-pointer on the buzzer to put the Huskies 39-32 at halftime.
Things got worse for Gonzaga early in the second half.
UConn extended the lead to 12, and Timme recorded his third and fourth fouls in the first 2.5 minutes – one on an attack, another on a boxout under the rim.
The Huskies really got rolling when Timme took a seat and used her defense to get out in transition and set up 3-pointers. A 14-3 run put UConn 60-37, and Gonzaga coach Mark Few took a calculated risk to put Timme back in the game.
It made little difference.
UConn kept up the pressure and kept making shots, blowing out another opponent and looking very much like the favorite to win it all.
https://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/35951841/uconn-demolishes-gonzaga-reach-1st-final-four-9-years UConn demolishes Gonzaga to reach 1st Final Four in 9 years