Baylor came into Monday’s National Championship game as underdogs but left as champions.
In a game they never trailed against the No. 1 overall seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs (31-3), the Bears opened up with a double-digit lead early and coasted to a 86-70 win. There was no doubt who was the better team on the biggest stage March Madness provided at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Baylor’s first National Championship in school history with their last Final Four appearance coming 71 years ago.
Gonzaga’s dreams of being the first undefeated team to win a title since 1976 were crushed by Baylor’s ability to overwhelm the Bulldogs early. After running out to a 19-point lead, the Bears never let Gonzaga back into the contest.
Jared Butler scored 22 points and MaCio Teague added 19 for the Bears, who made 45 percent of their 3-pointers (10-of-23) and went 44.8 percent from the field.
Baylor beat up Gonzaga on both ends of the floor and kept scrapping, especially on the offensive glass. The Bulldogs managed just five offensive rebounds for the game compared to the Bears 16 second-chance opportunities. Overall, Gonzaga was out-rebounded 38-22 with very little going in their favor all night long.
Jalen Suggs led the Bulldogs with 22 points, but the freshman fell short of his buzzer-beating winning moment in the national semifinal game 48 hours earlier. The shot was this tournament’s signature moment.
Gonzaga’s first loss in 32 games this season, and 36 overall going back to the prior season. Indiana’s 1975-76 team remains the last undefeated team with a championship in college basketball. This marks the Bulldogs’ second National Championship appearance since 2017 and a sixth-straight year of advancing to at least the Sweet 16 round under coach Mark Few.
“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.”
This was one of the most-anticipated championship games in recent history. The top two teams in the nation squaring off to end the college basketball season for the ninth time in tournament history. But on paper this one was slated to be a closer contest.
Baylor (28-2) wins the first National Championship for the Big 12 Conference in 12 years. A rare win for the Bears who’re just the second team from Texas to win a title since 1967.
Gonzaga and Baylor were scheduled to meet in the regular season, in Indy nonetheless, but COVID-19 scrapped the December game. Four months later, and both teams returned for a match-up that made the finale to March Madness must-see television.