College Basketball
Timme leads Gonzaga past TCU, setting up compelling Sweet 16 matchup vs. UCLA
College Basketball

Timme leads Gonzaga past TCU, setting up compelling Sweet 16 matchup vs. UCLA

Published Mar. 20, 2023 3:08 a.m. ET

Drew Timme has been one of – if not the – faces of college basketball over the past few years. The Gonzaga big man has also been one of the poster boys for how name, image and likeness has brought key players back for another season when they otherwise would have been inclined to turn pro.

So perhaps it was no surprise that the heart and soul of a Gonzaga team that has enjoyed a historic run of success in the month of March refused to let his team lose in the second round to a plucky No. 6 seed TCU team. The Zags' senior leader helped spark an impressive comeback down the stretch to hold off the Horned Frogs, 84-81, and advance to the Sweet 16 for the eighth consecutive season.

The 22-year-old, trash-talking veteran who grew up not far from the Horned Frogs campus in Texas, became the seventh player in Division I history to score 20-plus points across nine or more NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games. Timme finished with 28 points on Sunday night, while adding eight rebounds, three assists and a handful of key defensive stops.

"They announced it was seven straight Sweet 16s, and I was like ‘we cannot be the team that messes this one up,’" Timme told FOX Sports’ Andy Katz after the game. "It’s a testament to coach and the program we have. We’ve got some dogs over here. This whole team just fights."

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The Bulldogs were down double-digits less than 13 minutes into the game but managed to go on a run just before the midway mark in the contest, holding TCU to just one field goal in the final four minutes of the first half to get back into the game.

After trading baskets to open the second half, Timme found himself in the thick of things by doing just about everything he could to key the WCC champs on a 13-0 run over the course of three minutes midway through the second frame to retake the lead for good.

Senior Rasir Bolton added 17 points, while fellow guard Malachi Smith was part of a key second-unit and ended up with 11 points and five rebounds.

The comeback also spoiled what could have been the cherry on an all-time great athletics season in Fort Worth. 

While Jamie Dixon did help guide his alma mater past Arizona State on Friday, the Horned Frogs came up just short for the second straight year of reaching their first Sweet 16 berth since 1968. The Hypnotoad-inspired private school still recorded a bowl game victory and an NCAA Tournament win in the same season for the first time ever and can hold their heads up high after a valiant run to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in January was followed up with some success in March Madness two months later.

TCU junior Mike Miles was terrific in trying to out-do Timme on the stat sheet, shooting 8-of-13 from the field for 24 points and playing all but one minute in a game his team came up just short amid a frantic second half.

Either way, the outcome delivers a matchup that was eagerly anticipated as soon as the brackets were released as the Zags advance to face an old foe down in Las Vegas in second-seeded UCLA

The two flagship men’s basketball programs on the West Coast have met seven times before, sharing some unforgettable history on the hard court when the calendar has flipped to March. 

Back in the so-called bubble tournament of 2021 in Indianapolis, the two teams staged an epic back-and-forth battle in the Final Four. Behind Johnny Juzang’s 29 points, the 11th-seeded Bruins appeared to have punched their ticket to the title game in the dying embers of overtime. Then, as the final seconds wound down, Gonzaga's Jalen Suggs launched a half-court shot that banked in to send the tiny Jesuit program in the Pacific Northwest to the national championship game.

UCLA has just two wins in the series: a 71-66 regular-season win in Spokane back in 2015, and a memorable 17-point comeback victory in the 2006 Sweet 16. That game left its mark on the basketball world, with cameras catching Gonzaga star and Player of the Year Adam Morrison sobbing just past the 3-point line amid the heartbreak. 

While they will renew the rivalry 17 years to the day next Thursday, the last time the two teams met on the court came at T-Mobile Arena (the site of the West Regional) in November of last season, which ended in an 83-63 blowout win for Gonzaga. Timme recorded 18 points against a number of faces that he’ll see in Sin City, including Jaime Jaquez Jr., Tyger Campbell, David Singleton and Kenneth Nwuba

"They’re a good team," Timme remarked of his upcoming opponent, noting that he was avoiding giving a full scouting report until he could watch film. 

Morrison will be there too, nearly two decades later, in his role as the team’s radio analyst. However, this time, Morrison is hoping the current most-famous mustache in the Pacific Northwest can do what he couldn’t to the Bruins back in 2006.

March Madness is always about those moments on the big stage that seemingly last forever, so perhaps it’s fitting for Gonzaga that the face of the program once again put them in position to have another one of those moments.

Bryan Fischer is a college football writer for FOX Sports. He has been covering college athletics for nearly two decades at outlets such as NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and NFL.com among others. Follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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