In the first of what could be three contests in a little more than three weeks, Gonzaga defeated St. Mary’s 74 – 58 in a game that was tougher than the final score indicated. The Zags were led by Drew Timme with 25 points on 11 for 16 from the field and 5 assists. Chet Holmgren had another double/double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Andrew Nembhard was outstanding with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and no turnovers. St Mary’s was led by Tommy Kuhse off the bench with 16 points and Matthias Tass chipped in 14.
As expected, the start of the game was a horrible slog. Gonzaga led 4 - 2 after 4:30 of play with the Zags shooting 2 for 7 and SMC 1 for 6. St Mary’s kept it close for the first 10 minutes, even taking a 12-11 lead. The Gaels were led by Matthias Tass who scored 6 their first 12 points backing Chet Holmgren down and shooting a baby hook from about 6 feet.
It was about then that Drew Timme said enough of this. He scored 13 points over the next ten minutes including making Gonzaga’s only three-pointer. He also hit a cutting Rasir Bolton with what may have been one of the prettiest passes of the season.
Timme wasn’t alone in dominating the last ten minutes of the first half. Look for Andrew Nembhard on SportsCenter tonight after completing one of the best plays of the season. He crossed-over his defender at the top of the key, drove down the middle of the lane, ending with a one-handed hammer. Hunter Sallis provided a spark with two strong defensive plays and Chet Holmgren ended the half with three blocks, six rebounds and a coast-to-coast lay-up. Gonzaga entered the locker room leading a 36 – 23.
The second half started with more Timme as he abused Kyle Bowen for a three-point play. Holmgren then nailed a three, followed by a Timme two in the post, then a Strawther three and the Zags jumped out to a 21-point lead.
To St. Mary’s credit, they hung tough and didn’t fold. They successfully speed up their play as Gonzaga went cold. The Gaels chipped away at the lead through the remainder of the half, getting it down to eight with 3:10 to play. Thankfully, Julian Strawther came through in the clutch hitting two three-pointers in the last three minutes to seal a hard-fought Gonzaga win.
I must give the Gaels credit, they were incredibly resilient and stuck to what they do best. They seemingly lulled Gonzaga to sleep after the Zags went up big while continuing to take care of the ball (only 7 turnovers) and take good shots.
It pains me to say it, but the Gaels deserve their place in the top 25 (though they’ll probably fall out on Monday) and Randy Bennett does an incredible job getting the most out of his players (that one hurt).
Gonzaga travels to Malibu on Wednesday for an 8:00 p.m. game against Pepperdine. They return home on Saturday for Senior Night against Santa Clara.