Drew Timme led the Bulldogs in both scoring and rebounding, managing a double-double with 28 points and 10 rebounds in just 22 minutes. He was a very-nearly-perfect 11 for 12 shooting from the field, 2 for 2 from beyond the arc (!), and added an assist, a steal and 2 sweet blocks to his stat line. Mark Few knew that San Francisco couldn’t match up against the 6’10” native of Texas whose footwork in the post is nothing short of brilliant, drawing comparisons to the likes of Kevin McHale. In his pregame talk, Few must have told his backcourt: Just feed the post. Just feed the post. When the Zags went on a 17-2 run to open the game, Timme had 15 of those points off post moves down low and a (why the heck not?) 3-ball from deep to cap Gonzaga’s evisceration of the Dons early. He would hit another 3 at the 7-minute mark in the first half and would miss his first and only basket in the game with 1:54 left in that half after scoring 21 points. Keith Ybanez of The Slipper Still Fits put it well in his 10 observations about the game: “Few was the only one in the gym who was able to slow Timme down.” That is, by putting him on the bench. Timme and the Zags were up 48-26 by halftime.
That pummeling continued in the second half, even when Timme wasn’t on the court—even when Mark Few cleared the bench. One great sign for upcoming success in Gonzaga’s postseason is great play from the bench. The Zags, in fact, went from some hot shooting in first half to some lava-hot shooting in the second half where they shot 75% from the field, a mark they haven’t hit in another half of play in nearly 20 years. And it wasn’t just from close range as the Bulldogs saw nearly 50% of their attempts from deep fall in a 10 for 21 effort for the whole game, highlighted by Timme’s 2 for 2 and Andrew Nembhard’s 2 for 4. Four players off the bench hit from beyond the arc, including Gonzaga’s newest member, Ben Gregg (who hit the late 3 that put Gonzaga into triple digits at 100), as well as Dominic Harris, Julian Strawther and Aaron Cook. Cook, who has been cooking with some serious spice lately, went 4 for 5 from the field, scoring 12 points, adding 4 assists and 3 steals in just 14 minutes. Particularly impressive in the second half were quick transition baskets like the alley-oop, fast-break dunk Harris stuffed home off the assist from Cook, and deep 3’s from Suggs’ “tricky-trio” cohorts Strawther and Harris.
The ball was dropping relentlessly through the net for the Zags while the exact opposite was happening on the other end, as San Francisco couldn’t seem to buy a basket, especially from deep. The Dons, who rely heavily on shots from beyond the arc, finished a dismal 7 for 33 from deep. Needless to say, Gonzaga’s defense was spot-on everywhere, even making it repeatedly difficult for San Francisco to in-bound the ball. On one in-bound along the baseline, the Zags smothered the cutting San Francisco players and forced the Dons to call a time out before a five-second violation was called. On another, a Dons player was forced to jump out of bounds to receive the in-bounds pass and the Bulldogs forced a turnover. That sort of defensive effort is going to get them wins in any game they play, even if their shooting cools off.
Besides Timme with his game-high 28 points, 4 other Zags scored in double figures including the aforementioned Cook (12), as well as starters Corey Kispert (12), Jalen Suggs (11) and Joel Ayayi (12). Andrew Nembhard was just short of that mark with 8 points, shooting 2 of 4 from beyond the arc and adding 5 assists. Suggs also had 5 assists along with 5 rebounds and was particularly effective at pressuring the Dons defense off his dribble-drive, often getting fouled on the way to the hoop. Suggs (6-6) and Kispert (3-3) shot a perfect 9 for 9 from the charity stripe. In fact, the team had one of its best nights of the season at the foul line, hitting just under 86%.
On Thursday, the Saint Mary’s Gaels are going to come to Spokane and look to cool down Gonzaga’s hot-hands. I suspect that is going to be too difficult a task for this Gaels team. Saint Mary’s is often able to tough themselves into at least a respectable loss to the Bulldogs, but Gonzaga is just too good right now and I think they’re going to be looking to keep the defensive momentum going. I say Gonzaga gets another big win, lots of chances at the free throw line, and puts emphasis on stopping Tommy Kuhse on the defensive end. I’ll venture 97-66. Have a great week. GO ZAGS!!!
~ Clark Karoses