By MARK ANDERSON
AP Sports Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Gonzaga was down 10 points early in the second half Saturday night in the West Region final against UConn, but Julian Strawther had just secured a defensive rebound, and perhaps the Bulldogs had a run in them.
But then came a whistle. Zags forward Drew Timme had picked up his fourth foul. Shortly thereafter, it became clear that Gonzaga’s NCAA Tournament run would end.
Without him, the third-seeded Bulldogs weren’t a match for No. 4 seed UConn, which pulled away to win 82-54 and end Timme’s college career.
Timme, who gained fame for his masterful inside moves and world-class mustache, put together perhaps the finest college career in recent memory. He was a throwback for his crafty low-post game and for spending four years at the same school.
“I’m just so thankful that the program and the place took me for who I was,” Timme said. “They didn’t ask me to be anybody but myself. I’m forever in debt for Gonzaga, just the love I have for just everyone that helped me and made this journey so special and so fun. I just don’t think I could ever repay that.
“I’d do anything for Gonzaga. I always will. This isn’t a goodbye; it’s a see-you-later.”
The emotions were clear on Timme’s red face, which he covered with a towel a handful of times. He sniffled as the postgame news conference was about to begin.
But Timme held it together when the questions came, including about the fourth foul less than three minutes into the second half. That came after he was whistled for a charge just 26 seconds into the half.
“The bottom line is they were the better team tonight,” Timme said of UConn. “They made more shots. They got the 50-50 balls. Regardless of whether we want to say what-ifs, the refs didn’t control that game.”
Timme, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds against the Huskies, departs knowing he left a mark not only at Gonzaga but on college hoops.
He owns the Gonzaga record with 2,307 points and led the Zags to the Sweet 16 in each of the past three seasons and the national title game in 2021.
“I think he’s one of the greatest college players in this modern era,” coach Mark Few said. “He’s won at the highest level. We leaned on him as hard as we’ve ever leaned on a player, and he delivered time and time and time again.
“But that’s just a small piece of it. He’s a bigger-than-life character. It was a blast to coach him.”
Gonzaga will have a new man in the middle next season, and the Bulldogs got a taste of that experience will be like when Timme sat for about three minutes and UConn rolled to a 58-37 lead.
By the time Timme re-entered the game, the Huskies were well on their way to their fourth double-digit victory in as many games.
Had Timme never picked up that fourth foul, the Huskies likely still would have pulled away, but the call altered the tone of the game and sped up the rout.
“You try to stay positive,” Bulldogs forward Anton Watson said. “We brought the team together and tried to keep positive thoughts and try to keep chipping away at that lead, but it’s hard when Drew goes out.”
It was another disappointing end to the season for Gonzaga, which is still searching for its first national championship. Expectations were low it would happen this year, so making the Elite Eight was a win in itself.
The Zags can thank Timme, who entered the game leading the team with averages of 21.5 points and 7.5 rebounds, for helping get them there.
“I don’t think anybody thought we would make it this far this year,” Timme said. “Just the stuff we overcame as a group and how we stayed together, I think, speaks volumes to who we are as people, more than players.”
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