Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball is back baby. The Zags hosted the Eastern Oregon Mountaineers for their first exhibition game of the season and came away with the expected easy win, 115-62.
The starting five consisted of Chet Holmgren, Drew Timme, Julian Strawther, Rasir Bolton, and Andrew Nembhard. Whether or not this continues obviously remains to be seen, but on its face, it was a starting lineup that made sense. Bolton and Strawther immediately showcased why they belong—Strawther especially.
The sophomore winger looked right at home in the starting lineup, confidently hitting open corner threes and displaying that aggressive scoring knack throughout the entire first half. Strawther led all scorers with 18 points in the first half, and Bolton looked like the reincarnation of Ryan Woolridge, Demitri Goodson, and other sprinters from Gonzaga’s backcourts.
Holmgren, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2021, showcased why he is the unicorn prospect, scoring his first collegiate points on a coast-to-coast trip.
Holmgren displayed that drive multiple times and showcased the dribbling handles, the three-point shot, and all of the other aspects of his game that make him borderline impossible to defend.
Just like last year, the Zags were out for blood in transition as often as possible. Holmgren was responsible for a few outlet passes himself and the Zags, for the most part, look like they are going to test other teams to try and keep up with them.
Mark Few Brian Michaelson emptied the bench, as we should expect in an exhibition game. In terms of minutes distribution and things to watch, Ben Gregg was the final expected contributor off the bench and Martynas Arlauskas did not even make an appearance (assuming the latter was planned since the walk-ons entered the game with five minutes left).
Not that Eastern Oregon ever had a chance, but the poor Mountaineers got absolutely demolished by injuries in this game. EOU’s all-time leading scorer Max McCullough left the game early in the first half with a knee injury and did not return. Former Gonzaga walk-on Paul Pennington broke his arm (it appeared) during the game and left in visible pain. We wish all of them the best in whatever their recoveries might be.
It wasn’t all roses, of course. The Zags (outside of Holmgren, with a clean 6-of-7 from the line) struggled from the free throw line, shooting just 61.1 percent (22-for-36). Outside of Strawther, the three-point threat was borderline non-existent. Holmgren nailed his and Gregg hit one as well, but the Zags finished just 7-for-24 from beyond the arc, with Nembhard missing all four attempts and Bolton whiffing on his three.
All in all, the Zags looked good, however. There were a few freshman mistakes, but the team looked fluid and, most importantly, looked like they were having fun. The Zags have another exhibition on the docket on Friday vs. Lewis and Clark State before opening the season on Nov. 9 against Dixie State.