The two teams that played in the 2021 national championship game will be on the same floor Friday night when No. 14 Gonzaga faces No. 6 Baylor in the Peacock Classic at Sioux Falls, S.D.
One of the squads will receive their third loss of the season in the high-stakes matchup in which Bulldogs star Drew Timme and Bears big man Flo Thamba are the lone remaining starters from Baylor’s 86-70 triumph in the title game.
The national championship game represents the Bears’ lone win over Gonzaga in six all-time meetings.
Baylor (5-2) enters the matchup with the Bulldogs (5-2) on a down note after being flattened 96-70 by host Marquette on Tuesday.
The Bears committed 20 turnovers — 16 in the first half — and allowed Marquette to shoot 58.3 percent from the field.
“I’m really surprised we didn’t do a better job handling the pressure,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said afterward. “… I didn’t see that coming.”
Baylor trailed 51-25 at halftime and never moved within 20 points in the second half.
“Defensively we weren’t very good in either half,” Drew said. “To be a good team you have to defend and we weren’t a good team (Tuesday night).
“The turnovers in the first half killed us, the defense all game killed us.”
LJ Cryer scored 19 points and Adam Flagler added 16 for Baylor.
Cryer averages a team-best 17.9 points and Flagler is chipping in 16.9 per game. Keyonte George is third with a 14.4 average.
The Bears’ other loss this season was to then-No. 16 Virginia on a neutral court at Las Vegas.
Gonzaga averaged three losses over the past six seasons so it certainly doesn’t want to equal that setback rate by Dec. 2.
The Zags have sustained two blowout losses — 19 points to then-No. 11 Texas and 18 to then-No. 24 Purdue.
Gonzaga bounced back from the 84-66 loss to Purdue in the Phil Knight Legacy semifinal to record an 88-84 victory over Xavier in the third-place game.
“We definitely keep it interesting,” forward Anton Watson said after the win over the Musketeers. “It’s probably not a good thing for the most part right now, but it’s been fun with this new team and just the adventure we’ve been having throughout the season.”
Julian Strawther scored a career-high 23 points and collected nine rebounds against Xavier. Strawther ranks second on the team in scoring (14.1) and leads in rebounding (8.4) and 3-point baskets (15).
He is enjoying playing a bigger role for the Bulldogs.
“It just feels amazing, especially for these guys to look to get me the ball when the shot clock is running down and we needed a big shot,” Strawther said. “They believed in me, so it feels amazing to knock them down. When you’re in the gym by yourself, those are the ones you envision yourself making.”
Timme and Watson each scored 16 points against Xavier.
Timme is averaging a team-best 20.0 points along with 7.4 boards per game. The preseason All-American is shooting a robust 62.1 percent from the field.
Rasir Bolton (13.0) also averages in double digits for the Bulldogs and he has made 14 3-pointers.