The statements made by Gonzaga’s Ryan Nembhard and Anton Watson following their defeat to Purdue in the Sweet 16.

In Detroit, the Gonzaga Bulldogs, seeded fifth, saw their season conclude with an 80-68 defeat against the first-seeded Purdue Boilermakers during the Sweet 16 round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament on Friday.

Throughout much of the first half, the Zags (27-8) managed to stay competitive against Zach Edey and his teammates before the 7-foot-4 All-American dominated in the latter part of the game, leading his team to the Elite Eight for the third time since 2000 with a stellar performance of 27 points and 14 rebounds.

Reflecting on the challenge posed by Edey, Ryan Nembhard remarked, “It’s difficult. He commands so much attention in the paint. When the guards drive, you’re forced to collapse inside because they’ll either lob it up to him or kick it out for a three. So, it’s a matter of choosing your defensive strategy.”

Here are further insights from Nembhard and Anton Watson following Gonzaga’s season-ending loss:

Watson expressed gratitude as he played his final game for Gonzaga, saying, “I’m incredibly thankful. It’s still sinking in for me. I’ve cherished this season with my coaches, teammates, and the overwhelming support from the fans. It’s been a special journey for me, and I know my family feels the same way.”

Regarding the approach to defending Edey, Watson explained, “Our strategy was to space the floor, set screens for whoever he was guarding, and force him to move away from the basket as much as possible.”

“In the first half, we executed this plan well. In the second half, we aimed to find open areas and capitalize on floaters. But overall, that was our focus,” he added.

Nembhard reflected on Purdue’s pivotal 16-2 scoring run in the second half, saying, “It was challenging. During that stretch, we missed some easy opportunities near the rim that didn’t go our way. They capitalized on our misses, scored threes in transition, and fed the ball to their big man for easy buckets. It was definitely a tough moment. They’re a formidable opponent.”

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