Baylor denies Gonzaga's bid for perfection, wins first men's basketball championship
- list itemBaylor raced to an early lead Monday, thanks to red-hot shooting, hard work on the boards and suffocating defense.
Baylor University, just a generation removed from one of the most disturbing scandals in college basketball history, captured the sport's ultimate prize Monday night.
The Bears beat Gonzaga, 86-70, in the Division I title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, keeping the Bulldogs one agonizing victory short of a perfect season.
Gonzaga ended the campaign 31-1, meaning that the last top-flight college basketball team to win it all, without a blemish remains the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers.
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Baylor’s trio of high-energy, sharp-shooting guards, Jared Butler, MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell, scored 22, 19 and 15 points, respectively in leading the Bears to the school's first men's basketball title.
Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs labored for all 22 of his team-high points, but he couldn’t re-create the magic of his buzzer-beating winner in the national semifinal game 48 hours earlier. The shot was this tournament's signature moment.
Baylor raced to an early 19-point lead Monday, thanks to red-hot shooting, hard work on the boards and suffocating defense.
“We play with a culture of joy," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “They fed off of each other, we got off to a great start.”
He thanked “our fans that have been with us for the lean years (and) the good years.”
Gonzaga, perhaps still drained from its thrilling 93-90 overtime victory over UCLA on Saturday, looked flat from the start. The Bulldogs cut their deficit to a single digit shortly after intermission, but Baylor never panicked and kept a comfortable lead.
Bulldogs coach Mark Few refused to let Monday night's loss tarnish a remarkable 2020-21 season.
"You can't go to 31-0 and get to the last night and get beat and feel bad about it," Few said. "It was just an unbelievable run we've been on."
The coach said he told his players to keep their chins up, as they head back to Spokane with their first loss of the season.
"I just said this will pass," Few said. "We got to give Baylor a ton of credit. But just remember what an amazing, amazing year, what an amazing accomplishment, even getting to this point, was."
Capturing college basketball's top trophy capped the 18th season of Drew's run at Baylor, which began at the lowest point any program could have reached.