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Keys to winning for Gonzaga in Elite Eight of 2023 NCAA Tournament

We go over the path to advancing for Bulldogs in the Elite Eight of March Madness.

Gonzaga v UCLA
Drew Timme of the Gonzaga Bulldogs reacts after scoring during the first half against the UCLA Bruins in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 23, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Gonzaga Bulldogs pulled off a stunning comeback, capped by a deep three for Julian Strawther, to defeat UCLA Thursday and set up a contest with UConn in the Elite 8 Saturday. Here’s what the WCC champions can do to take down the Huskies and advance to the Final Four.

Keys to winning for Gonzaga vs. UConn

Feed the big man

It sounds obvious, but playing through Drew Timme is Gonzaga’s best chance at winning this game. The forward is almost automatic in the paint, and he’s a strong passer out of double teams. He’s scored 21, 28 and 36 points in three tournament games, raising his production each time. Timme is the focal point for Gonzaga’s offense, and his dominance opens up opportunities for others which leads to the second key for the Bulldogs.

Find Malachi Smith on the perimeter

Reading into shooting splits on small sample size is usually not a good indicator of success. However, these numbers are pretty stark. In Gonzaga’s five losses during the regular season, Smith shot 36.4% from deep. In the team’s 30 wins, he shot 51.9% from deep. He only took 88 triples on the year but even one or two makes the difference between a win and a loss.

Get off to better starts

Gonzaga isn’t intentionally starting slow but this team really should be more focused coming into games. The Bulldogs were down seven to Grand Canyon with six minutes left in the first half, down 10 to TCU with 7:30 left in the first half and down 13 at halftime to UCLA. Although they ultimately won each game, those deficits eventually will catch up with you. Getting off to a decent start isn’t too much to ask for.