About 24 hours before leading his team into the men's Final Four and a 30-0 record, Gonzaga star Jalen Suggs FaceTimed his great friend and Connecticut celebrity Paige Bueckers shortly after she had carried the Huskies into the Women's Final Four with a game-high 28 points at a 69-67 win over Baylor at San Antonio on Monday.
Suggs said he had intended to congratulate Bueckers -- the two are former high school stars from Minnesota -- for the accomplishment but rather left their conversation feeling inspired because of his regional final matchup the subsequent night.
"Last evening, [Bueckers] said some things that really helped me," said Suggs, who finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in his group's 85-66 win over USC at the Elite Eight. "I've been kind of struggling, trying to get my footing in these tournament games. Needless to say, seeing her go out there and play great like she did and talking afterward... she sort of said some words, it kind of got me got me going. Definitely helped tonight"
Suggs entered Tuesday's game with 14 turnovers combined in his three previous contests. He ended three against USC, his lowest tally from the NCAA championship. While he showed poise at the Elite Eight matchup, he also lacked that calm watching Bueckers' game on Monday.
Suggs said he was"extremely nervous" and"pacing back and forth" before the final buzzer.
"I couldn't sit down," he said.
But coach Mark Few said his group isn't focused on history. He explained he wanted it to celebrate its Elite Eight success and move on to another match against UCLA.
"Everyone would like us to keep moving ahead, but that's not the way we roll up," he explained after the game. "That really is a hell of an accomplishment. We're planning to take it and enjoy it for what it is. That doesn't lessen our desire to win this match, the next game or win more games. We're wise enough to know these are really, really unique times. These are great accomplishments, and they have to be celebrated. That's how we are approaching it at this time. Appreciating the heck out of it."
Tuesday's game was an impressive showing by the Bulldogs from a USC squad that had dominated Kansas and Oregon on its way to the Elite Eight. However a Gonzaga team that made 50% of its shots and outscored USC 46-32 in the paint overwhelmed the Trojans.
The pursuit of perfection continues.
Suggs entered the postgame news conference with a souvenir around his neck: Few had awarded him the most significant piece of the internet he cut down after Tuesday's win. Suggs said he was not certain when he was supposed to wear it around, but few advised him to"keep it"
While the group is not looking too far ahead, Suggs said it is difficult to avoid thinking about the potential for an undefeated season.
"It's difficult not to think about it," Suggs said. "We try to keep our minds from it and keep focused on the task at hand. It's a great achievement to be noted with those teams because they are amazing. We only come in daily to perform into the Gonzaga regular and for each other. I meanthis is the result that we get from this."