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Recap and highlights: Gonzaga catches fire in second half to beat Kansas 89-68, clinch ninth straight Sweet 16

Mar. 23—Of all Gonzaga's sweet moments, this first-weekend triumph packs extra flavor.

The fifth-seeded Bulldogs, whose NCAA Tournament standing was in question late this season, beat the fourth-seeded Kansas Jayhawks 89-68 on Saturday in Salt Lake City to clinch their ninth straight trip to the Sweet 16.

Gonzaga got there with one of its most impressive stretches of the season. After going into halftime trailing 44-43, GU made 11 of its first 12 attempts in the second half and went on a 15-0 run that grew to 26-4.

The Bulldogs had five scorers in double figures: Anton Watson (21 points), Nolan Hickman (17), Graham Ike (15), Ben Gregg (15) and Braden Huff (11).

Ryan Nembhard did the facilitating with 12 assists and passed Josh Perkins for GU's single-season record at 236.

The Zags' streak is tied for second in tournament history with Duke (1998-2006), behind North Carolina (1981-93).

BOX SCORE

Gonzaga notebook: Point guard Ryan Nembhard enjoys record-setting performance

It didn't take Ryan Nembhard long to join Gonzaga's fraternity of standout point guards, which includes older brother Andrew. Ryan Nembhard, in his first season as a Zag, dished out 12 assists in GU's 86-65 victory over Kansas on Saturday, surpassing Josh Perkiins as No. 1 on the program's single-season assists list. — Read more

Difference makers: Ben Gregg comes up with timely plays in Gonzaga's win over Kansas

BEN GREGG — Read more

First half

19:42 — GU 0, KU 0: Kansas wins the jump and Dickinson misses his first attempt. We're underway in Salt Lake City.

17:54 — GU 6, KU 0: Perfect start for the Zags, who take an early lead with baskets inside, two from Watson and one from Ike. Kansas calls an early timeout after missing its first three shots.

15:15 — KU 13, GU 10: Jayhawks fire back with an 8-0 run, hitting a couple 3-pointers and capitalizing on two GU turnovers. Furphy leads with six points, while Timberlake adds five. Ike and Dickinson called for double fouls at the first media timeout.

11:27 — KU 22, GU 18: Back-and-forth action, Zags neither team been able to come up with many stops. Jayhawks take the advantage with three 3-pointers, while GU is 0 of 2 from deep. KU ball after the U12 media timeout.

Ike and Watson lead GU with six points apiece.

8:00 — KU 24, GU 24: Hickman hits a 3-pointer to tie it and Ike is called for his second foul at the U8 media timeout.

Tough break for the Zags big man, though Huff provided some good minutes off the bench. He'll likely check back in. Lots of pace here, Nembhard yet to get his shot going, but he has five assists.

5:11 — GU 33, KU 27: Huff slams it to cap a great stretch by the Zags. GU matches is largest lead of the game and Kansas calls a timeout.

Crucial minutes from Huff, who has nine points with Ike on the bench with two fouls. Gregg adds seven points.

0:01 — KU 44, GU 43: Kansas erases GU's lead with 3-pointers from Harris, Furphy and Dickinson. Jayhawks staying in the game with their shooting, 7 of 11 from 3.

Gregg converts a layup through a hard foul from Dickinson and can tie it right before half. U4 media timeout comes with one second before half, fast pace on both sides.

Halftime

Ben Gregg missed a potentially tying free throw attempt and Kansas has a 44-43 lead over Gonzaga in the round of 32 in Salt Lake City.

Shaping up to be one of the best games of the tournament so far.

Hunter Dickinson leads Kansas with 13 points. The Jayhawks have relied on their shooting from the most part, hitting a blistering 7 of 11 3-point attempts.

The Zags have gone inside, Braden Huff leads with 11 points off the bench, after Graham Ike played just six minutes with two fouls.

Second half

16:09 — GU 56, KU 49: Nembhard hits his first shot and finds Ike for a basket on the next possession. Kansas calls timeout with GU on a 8-0 run.

Nembhard up to 10 assists, Ike has 10 points after playing six minutes in the first half.

Kansas starts the second half 1 of 4 from 3, after going 7 of 11 in the first half.

15:55 — GU 56, KU 49: Furphy misses again, Nembhard rebounds and Watson is fouled on a fast break to signal the U16 media timeout. He'll go to the line.

Jayhawks have been able to spell GU's runs after timeouts, Zags can really build momentum here.

12:00 — GU 66, KU 53: Gonzaga goes on a killer 15-0 run to take control. Kansas slows it with a dunk from Bruan. GU ball at the U12 media timeout.

Hickman down on the court. He leads GU with 17 points on 7 of 9 shooting. Watson has been stellar too with 15 points. Zags shooting 64% from the field and 6 of 12 on 3-pointers.

10:52 — GU 71, KU 53: Watson layup, Gregg 3-pointer and Kansas calls a timeout. Unbelievable half from the Zags, who have a 28-9 advantage since halftime. GU shooting 11 of 12 in the second half.

7:53 — GU 74, KU 53: Zags are rolling at the U8 media timeout. Nembhard will head to the line to shoot two free throws. Zags on a 26-4 run.

3:23 — GU 82, KU 60: Kansas hits a couple shots, but this one is about over. Zags closing in on their eight straight trip to the Sweet 16.

Gonzaga starters: Ryan Nembhard, Nolan Hickman, Ben Gregg, Anton Watson, Graham Ike. Kansas starters: Dajuan Harris Jr., KJ Adams, Johny Furphy, Nick Timberlake, Hunter Dickinson.

Pregame

Gonzaga-Kansas, two programs with entirely different starts, but have been some of the most successful in recent time.

The Bulldogs and Jayhawks meet today in the NCAA Tournament round of 32. Tipoff is set for 12:15 in a standalone spot on CBS.

The fifth-seeded Zags (26-7) dismantled McNeese State in the opener, while fourth-seeded Kansas (23-10), without leading scorer Kevin McCullar, survived against Samford.

Today's game will likely go down to the battle between All-Americans Hunter Dickinson and Graham Ike in the post, but Ryan Nembhard's NCAA Tournament experience may give GU an edge.

If the Zags win today, they'll make the Sweet 16 for an eighth straight tournament, one shy of the record set by North Carolina from 1985-93.

Kansas Jayhawks at a glance

Game preview

Led by Hall of Fame coaches, Gonzaga and Kansas took unique paths to second-round NCAA tournament matchup

SALT LAKE CITY — Wearing Hawaiian shirts and kukui nut necklaces, Mark Few and Bill Self shared the same podium in Honolulu four months ago, acknowledging they were prepared to learn plenty about their respective teams, for better or worse, over the next 72 hours at the Maui Invitational. — Read more

Key matchup: Lefty bigs Hunter Dickinson, Graham Ike highlight NCAA Tournament matchup between Kansas, Gonzaga

SALT LAKE CITY — Gonzaga's first run-in with an All-American post player came at the Maui Invitational, where the Bulldogs squared off against reigning national player of the year Zach Edey and Purdue in an opening-round game. — Read more

More on the Zags

'They're a blue blood for sure.' Kansas' Kevin McCullar Jr. still has admiration for Gonzaga program he considered playing for

SALT LAKE CITY — Kevin McCullar Jr. sat on a training table in Kansas' locker room with a Powerade, wearing a blue Jayhawks hoodie and Adidas sweatpants. — Read more

Report: Pepperdine transfer Michael Ajayi planning official visit to Gonzaga

Gonzaga's busy monitoring the transfer portal while simultaneously preparing the biggest game of the year — an NCAA Tournament matchup against Kansas in the round of 32. — Read more

Gonzaga-Kansas notes: Former Santa Clara forward Parker Braun gained insight on Zags during four WCC meeting

SALT LAKE CITY — Call it bad timing on Parker Braun's part. — Read more

Gonzaga's Ryan Nembhard, international players at U.S. schools face NIL hurdles

But not everyone is cashing in on the NIL marketplace. International players face a maze of regulations because they're typically on student visas with restrictive U.S. visa laws. That probably explains why standout point guard Ryan Nembhard, who is from Ontario, Canada, was hesitant to discuss NIL in Gonzaga's locker room earlier this week. — Read more