The Gonzaga Bulldogs made some history Tuesday night, defeating Montana 85-75 to set the modern Division I record for consecutive home wins. The Zags’ 72nd straight win in The Kennel came on the back of another dominant Drew Timme performance, as the reigning national Player of the Week tallied 32 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals.
The win was also GU’s 96th in a row over unranked opponents, but that didn’t mean it was a cakewalk by any stretch. Montana came out of the gates hot, withstood late first half pressure from the Zags, and made a valiant comeback attempt before it was all said and done.
As could be expected, Gonzaga came out a little sluggish in the first half with the holiday break looming and no student section to bring the noise. The Grizzlies took full advantage, hitting their shots and forcing Zag turnovers to the tune of a 20-10 lead at the second media timeout. Despite their lumps early on, Gonzaga was able to once again rely on Timme to stay in the game, as he scored 10 of the team’s first 16 points en route to 18 at the break.
With Timme keeping them in reach, the Zags flipped a switch in the final ten minutes of the first, using better defensive pressure to get open looks in transition. A 26-8 run to close the half turned their ten-point deficit into an eight-point lead after 20 minutes of play.
Gonzaga showed more cohesiveness on both ends of the floor in the second, but that didn’t stop Montana from staying within arm’s length and keeping it interesting. The Zags’ more well rounded effort was important, as the Grizzlies did a much better job of denying Timme the ball for large portions of the half. Julian Strawther and Malachi Smith were both key for GU in the second, combining for 19 points on 5-7 shooting from the floor.
Montana once again found a groove as the clock dropped under ten minutes, with the trio of Josh Bannan, Brandon Whitney, and Dischon Thomas leading a Grizzlies surge that saw them get back within five. The Zags did a good job to nut up and stop the run, making some key plays on both ends of the floor and knocking down clutch free throws to seal the deal.
While it wasn’t as smooth as we maybe hoped, a win is a win. There are still plenty of positives to be taken from this game, and the Zags go into the holiday break with a solid win in front of the home crowd. Montana, just like Kent State before them, is a solid mid-major team that deserves props for sticking with Gonzaga for a full 40 minutes. The Zags will round out their non-conference slate next Wednesday when they host NAIA Eastern Oregon.