No. 2 Gonzaga beat No. 11 UCLA, 74-62, in the Sweet 16 on Friday to reach its first Elite Eight since 1999.
“We’re really excited that we were able to get the win,” Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “We’re looking forward to the next one.”
The Zags controlled the game throughout, outscoring the Bruins by seven points in the first half and by five points in the second half. Neither team shot well from the floor – UCLA shot 38.8 percent, while Gonzaga shot 40.3 percent – but the Zags dominated the glass. They corralled 50 rebounds to UCLA’s 39 and finished with 15 assists.
“It was just one of those nights where our shots weren’t falling,” said Wiltjer, who shot 4-of-12 and finished with eight points. “We were just glad that we were able to have that will to win. I think our defense and rebounding really helped us get the win tonight.”
Wiltjer, to his credit, had a team-high 10 rebounds, while Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis dominated down low. That duo combined for 30 points on 14-of-20 shooting (70 percent), thus atoning for Gonzaga’s 3-of-19 performance (15.8 percent) from beyond the arc.
“Even when our shots aren’t falling, we’re still a really good basketball team because we can pound it down low and get easy baskets,” Wiltjer said.
Defensively, Gonzaga held UCLA guard Bryce Alford in check. The sophomore sharpshooter shot just 3-of-11 and finished with eight points.
“We knew he was going to be aggressive, and I think we did a great job as a team,” Wiltjer said. “We made it really tough on him and didn’t give him easy layups. So I think it was a great effort (by) all of us defensively.”
Tony Parker and Norman Powell each scored 16 points for UCLA, but it wasn’t enough. Gonzaga placed four scorers in double digits, including Byron Wesley and Kevin Pangos, who had 14 and 10 points, respectively.
The Zags did a great job of sharing the basketball, as each starter finished with at least two assists. The best pass of the night came from – of all people – Karnowski, a 7-1 center from Poland. Karnowski funneled a behind-the-back pass to the 6-10 Sabonis, who scored an easy lay-up.
“Oh man, that was pretty awesome,” Wiltjer said. “That really got us fired up. We’re at our best when he’s real good, and that was a great game for him. He was a beast down there.”
Gonzaga (35-2) plays Duke (32-4) in the Elite Eight this Sunday at 5:05 p.m. ET. The Blue Devils held off No. 5 Utah, 63-57, on Friday to reach their first Final Four since 2010.
The Zags are seeking their first Final Four in program history.