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Zags’ and Buckeye’s contest is set for Saturday

BOISE, Idaho — Rewind to Nov. 23, 2017.

At that time, most people were home with their family preparing for Thanksgiving but the Gonzaga and Ohio State men’s basketball teams were in Portland facing each other in the PK80 Invitational.

It wasn’t much of a contest as GU walked away with a 27 point victory, but a lot has changed since then and Ohio State is ready to prove that when the two teams face off again in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32.

“Game one was not much of a game,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said. “They absolutely took us to the woodshed. It was a mismatch in every way. And I’m hopeful that we can do a better job of getting our guys ready for that.”

When the Zags met with the Ohio State in November, the Buckeyes were in adjustment mode as they were transitioning from the leadership of Thad Matta to Holtmann, previously a three year head coach at Butler.

“We were kind of trying to find ourselves the first time we played them,” Ohio State’s Jea’Sean Tate said. “Now that we have our culture and we know what winning looks like and what things we need to do to win. I think this is going to be a completely different matchup than it was earlier in the season.”

During that game, Ohio State’s Tate and CJ Jackson combined for 12 points and Keita Bates Diop finished with 10 rebounds and went 2 of 7 from the field.

It appeared as though the Buckeyes hadn’t changed much from their previous 11 win season, where they failed to make a postseason appearance.

But now https://www.gonzagabulldogsjersey.com/domantas-sabonis-jersey-c-7.html, in March https://www.gonzagabulldogsjersey.com/nigel-williamsgoss-jersey-c-5.html, GU should be preparing to face a very different Ohio State squad.

They should be ready to handle the Bates Diop who is now averaging 19.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game and who was named Big Ten Player of the Year, the Tate and Jackson who are averaging 12.5 points and 12.2 points per game, respectively, and a team that, as a whole, is far more cohesive and consistent.

“They’re a team that looked like they came together more and they certainly have their belief in Chris [Holtmann] and the staff and the system,” GU head coach Mark Few said. “Certainly grown exponentially.”

Ohio State isn’t the only team that has developed since the PK80, as GU has seen growth as well, but perhaps in a more subtle way.

“I don’t know that they’ve made dramatic changes, they’ve just gotten better and better as you would expect one of Mark [Few’s] teams to be,” Holtmann said. “I think they’re an elite team right now.”

But the Gonzaga players can pinpoint areas they’ve seen improvement https://www.gonzagabulldogsjersey.com/bryan-alberts-jersey-c-6.html, particularly in ball movement, comfort and defense.

“The biggest thing I noticed from watching [film] is the defense,” GU’s Corey Kispert said. “The defense has definitely tightened up. There were definitely holes we left open in November that we definitely tightened up now. We’ve been preparing for them, piece by piece.”

Few and the Zags will be the first to say that the final score of their November matchup against the Buckeyes did not reflect the game that was played, noting the toughness, size and ability of the Ohio State guards.

Because of the foundation that was already there and the steps the Buckeyes have taken to become the Big Ten runners up, the Bulldogs are well aware that the game played in the Round of 32 will be a very different one from what was played early in the season.

“We watched them as they ran through the Big Ten almost to the last week of the season,” Few said. “And they did a great job getting them to believe and really come together and they seem like they’re really connected … We know it’s going to be really tough and physical. They’ve got great size Zach Norvell Jr. Jersey, great physicality and tough guys.

The Zags’ and Buckeye’s contest is set for Saturday, March 17, and will tipoff 30 minutes after the conclusion of No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Buffalo.