The outcome was settled well before the scoreboard read 86-70 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. In fact, it was clear in the opening four minutes, which nearly passed before Gonzaga scored even a point. By then, Baylor had 9 — an offensive onslaught that ultimately intensified and had Baylor with a 20-point advantage midway through the second half.
Just two nights before the title showdown, Gonzaga had prevailed in one of the most sensational games in the history of the N.C.A.A.’s men’s tournament, a 93-90 thriller against U.C.L.A. But on Monday, the Bears openly overpowered the Bulldogs, who started to rally a modest defense once they switched to zone.
It was still far too much.
Baylor seized rebounds. Especially early, it seemed to score on command and control the game’s flow and capitalize on one turnover after the next by Gonzaga, which entered Monday night hoping to become the first men’s Division I team since 1976 to cap an undefeated campaign with a national title.
There were moments when Gonzaga seemed to inch back into the game. In the second half, for instance, the Bulldogs narrowed the gap to 9. Two layups, two free-throws, a 3-pointer and 94 seconds later, the Baylor lead had vaulted to 16.
Baylor’s shooting was imperfect — indeed, Gonzaga made a greater share of its shots. But it spread its scoring around. Jared Butler, a junior guard, led Baylor with 22 points, his record for this year’s tournament. MaCio Teague added 19 of his own. Baylor had 16 second-chance points and 21 from its bench.
Gonzaga, whose season-leading scorer Drew Timme became enveloped in foul trouble with more than 11 minutes to play in the game, did much of its scoring in the paint and struggled mightily with 3-pointers, making just 29 percent. Jalen Suggs, the star of Saturday’s victory, finished with 22 points, the most of any Bulldog on Monday.
Across 18 seasons under Coach Scott Drew, Baylor has risen into a juggernaut of the sport. The Bears had reached the round of 16 five times since 2010, and the round of 8 three times. It was not until this season, though, that Baylor stormed into the Final Four for the first time since 1950. And when it last played for a championship, in 1948, Kentucky set down a shellacking, 58-42, in the title game.
“Since 2008, we’ve won 18 or more,” Drew said on Saturday. “And us and Kansas are the only two Power Fives to do that. We’ve been consistently good. We just haven’t been able to get to a Final Four or national championship.”
Then they made the grandest stage of all and routed a team that had not lost since Feb. 22, 2020.