On this night, though, it all came so easily — just as it has throughout the tournament.
Gonzaga, which has had one game closer than double digits all season, has cruised past Norfolk State, Oklahoma, Creighton and U.S.C. with no game closer than 16 points.
The Zags were so unencumbered on Tuesday that Drew Timme, the mustachioed, headband-wearing sophomore center from Dallas, seemed to go through his entire catalog of flexes after scoring — showing off a bicep, twirling his finger or shaking his head after tossing in a jump hook over Evan Mobley, suggesting that the Trojans’ lithe 7-foot freshman could not guard him.
For one night, he was not wrong. Mobley is likely to be one of the first players picked in the 2021 N.B.A. draft but he had little success trying to thwart Timme, who plays with patience and a surfeit of post moves.
Timme set the tone for the thumping just moments into the game, when he stripped U.S.C. point guard Tahj Eaddy of the ball at one end and drew a foul from Mobley at the other after pump faking him into the air. He scored 13 of Gonzaga’s first 23 points. In all, Timme finished with 23 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals.
“It set the tone that, hey, we’re going to be aggressive,” Few said of Timme’s steal. “This thing’s going to start with defense.”
The only moment the Zags’ momentum was slowed was a sobering one. Referee Bert Smith collapsed in front of the Gonzaga bench after he had run down the court. He pivoted in the corner and then keeled over, his head hitting the floor with a thud.
Paramedics rushed to attend to Smith, who remained breathing while lying on his back. As Few huddled his players to the side of the court, guard Joel Ayayi and assistant coach Tommy Lloyd peeked over to check on Smith, who was eventually carried off on a stretcher. He was alert and stable and was not taken to a hospital, an N.C.A.A. spokesman said. He was replaced by an alternate referee.