About 24 hours prior to leading his team to the men's Final Four and a 30-0 record, Gonzaga celebrity Jalen Suggs FaceTimed his great friend and Connecticut star Paige Bueckers shortly after she'd carried the Huskies into the Women's Final Four with a game-high 28 points in 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 motivated for his regional final matchup the subsequent night.
"I have been kind of fighting, trying to receive my footing in these tournament games. Obviously, watching her go out there and perform amazing like she did and talking afterward... she sort of said some words, it sort of got me got me moving. Definitely helped tonight"
He finished with three against USC, his lowest tally from the NCAA championship. While he showed poise at the Elite Eight matchup, he also lacked that serene watching Bueckers' match on Monday.
Suggs said he was"extremely nervous" and"pacing back and on" before the last buzzer.
"I could not sit down," he explained.
Now, Suggs and Gonzaga will consider the next step toward completing the first perfect season since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers achieved the feat.
But coach Mark Few said his group isn't focused on history. He said he wanted it to celebrate its Elite Eight victory and move on to another match against UCLA.
"Everyone wants us to keep moving forward, but that is not how we roll up," he explained after the match. "That is a heck of an accomplishment. We are going to take it and savor it for what it is. That does not lessen our desire to win this match, another game or win two more games. We're wise enough to understand these are really, very special occasions. These are great accomplishments, and they need to be celebrated. That's how we're approaching it right now. Enjoying the hell out of it."
Tuesday's game was an impressive showing by the Bulldogs against a USC squad that had dominated Kansas and Oregon on its way into the Elite Eight. However a Gonzaga team that made 50% of its shots and outscored USC 46-32 in the paint overwhelmed the Trojans.
Now, the pursuit of perfection continues.
Suggs entered the postgame news conference using a souvenir round his neck: Few had given him the most significant piece of the net he cut after Tuesday's win. Suggs said he wasn't sure when he was supposed to wear it around, but few advised him to"keep it."
While the team is not looking too far ahead, Suggs said it is hard to avoid thinking about the potential for an undefeated season.
"It's difficult not to consider it," Suggs said. "We try to keep our heads off of it and keep focused on the task at hand. It is a great achievement to be mentioned with these teams because they're amazing. We only come in every day to play into the Gonzaga regular and for each other. I meanthis is the result that we get from that"