Baylor men stun Gonzaga to win first NCAA national basketball title

April 6 (UPI) — The Baylor Bears earned a stunning 86-70 upset win over No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga on Monday night in Indianapolis to deny the Bulldogs of a perfect season while capturing their first NCAA men’s basketball national championship.

All-American guard Jared Butler, who was named the Final Four’s most outstanding player, had a team-best 22 points and seven assists for the Bears, who never trailed against an unbeaten Gonzaga team attempting to complete the first perfect season since Indiana in 1976.

Butler’s backcourt mates also played a major role in the Bears’ dominant victory. MaCio Teague scored 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting, while Davion Mitchell added 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. Adam Flagler chipped in 13 points in 22 minutes off the bench.

After jumping out to an early 19-point lead, the Bears never allowed Gonzaga to get any closer than nine. It was the Bulldogs’ first loss in 36 games dating back to the 2019-20 season.

“They came out [and] they fed off each other,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “We got off to a great start and defensively, we’re pretty good.”

Gonzaga freshman Jalen Suggs set the stage for Monday’s title game with his bank shot at the buzzer to help the Bulldogs beat UCLA in the national semifinals. Back on the court about 46 hours after that physical overtime matchup against the Bruins, it was clear the Bulldogs were playing on fatigued legs.

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few, who is now 0-2 in title games, gave full credit to Baylor, declining to blame his own team’s fatigue.

“Obviously, it’s a tough turnaround, but it was more just the aggressiveness and athleticism of Baylor,” Few said. “They deserved it. Quite frankly, they were terrific the entire tournament.”

Gonzaga shot 51% from the field but turned the ball over 14 times. The Bulldogs also got outrebounded by a 38-22 margin.

Suggs had 22 points and three assists for the Zags. Drew Timme and Corey Kispert each added 12 points.

The Bears supplant Virginia at the top of the college basketball world. The Cavaliers won the 2019 championship before the cancellation of the 2020 tournament as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Baylor outscored all six of its opponents in the tournament by an average of 15 points to earn the NCAA men’s crown.

Prior to this year, Baylor’s last trip to the Final Four came in 1950. The school’s only previous appearance in the men’s title game was in 1948, when the Bears lost to Kentucky.

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