Brandon Clarke had an historic performance with a career-high 36 points and five blocked shots to lead No. 1 seed Gonzaga over ninth-seeded Baylor 83-71 on Saturday in the second round of the West Region in Salt Lake City.
Clarke, who entered the NCAA Tournament leading the nation in field-goal percentage (.693), made 15 of 18 shots, including five dunks. The 6-foot-8 senior also had eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Clarke broke the school record for points in an NCAA Tournament game (Adam Morrison, 35) and became the third player in NCAA history with at least 35 points and five blocks, joining Navy’s David Robinson and LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal. The NCAA started tracking blocked shots as an official stat in the 1985-86 season.
“I mean, wow,” he said on TBS in response to his historic company. “My teammates made it super easy for me.”
Baylor (20-14) made a couple of runs after trailing 39-23 at the half, getting as close as five points, but Clarke and the Bulldogs’ interior offense were enough to hold off the feisty Bears.
Gonzaga (32-3) is headed to its fifth consecutive Sweet 16 and will face fourth-seeded Florida State on Thursday in Anaheim, Calif. The Seminoles eliminated the Bulldogs in last season’s Sweet 16 in Los Angeles.
Baylor’s Mark Vital, a rugged 6-foot-5 sophomore, led the undersized Bears with 17 points and eight rebounds. Makai Mason also scored 17, and King McClure added 15.
Gonzaga guard Corey Kispert made 4 of 6 3-point shots en route to 16 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds.
Baylor opened the second half with back-to-back 3-point shots to ignite a 10-0 run that quickly cut its halftime deficit to 39-33. Vital poured in nine points in the first 3:24 of the half but picked up his fourth foul at the 16:12 mark with the score 43-38.
Vital returned with 11:46 left and did not foul out.
Baylor, which made a season-high 16 shots from beyond the arc in a first-round victory against Syracuse, failed to find many good looks against Gonzaga’s man-to-man. The Bears made 1 of 10 3-point attempts in the first half and finished 4 of 21.
Everything went so well for the Bulldogs in the first half that when Geno Crandall attempted a lob to Clarke, the pass instead went through the net for a 3-pointer.
—Field Level Media