In one of the toughest road tests in WCC play for #1 Gonzaga (24-2, 13-0), the University of San Francisco crowd brought the most energy I have probably ever seen at the Hilltop in my lifetime. The roof was ready to pop off every single time a shot from a Don went up. One of the best basketball environments that the Zags have had the opportunity to be a part of this season so far.
As for the action on the court, both teams came into this one having a Top 20 defensive efficiency (according to KenPom) but not much defense was being played in this extremely fast-paced, physical matchup. Gonzaga came out the gate hot from three-point land before the first TV timeout (4-6 3P). The Dons then ramped up the halfcourt pressure with Khalil Shabazz and Jamaree Bouyea, forcing turnovers out of the Gonzaga guards and transition points on the other end.
Mark Few decided to change up the offensive plan and went with attacking, attacking, and more attacking of the paint for the rest of the 1st half. That was led by the All-American duo inside, Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren.
The 2nd half started off the same way the game did, the Zags forcing the Dons to come out to the three-point land and guard them. Once that happened, it was the Manchu and the Slender Man’s time to shine once again. And the Zags didn’t look back from there.
Drew Timme (20 points on 8-14 FG, 9 rebounds, 8 assists) and Chet Holmgren (21 points, 15 rebounds, 6 blocks, 3 steals) put on a show all night long while both being on triple-double watch. The Dons really had no answer for this tandem. Timme was doing his best Andrew Nembhard impression and force-feeding Holmgren down-low on multiple possessions throughout the game. And Chet? Just doing the usual. Protecting the rim with ease, crashing the glass with force, playing in transition with his long strides/skillful ball-handling.
Not sure any other player in college basketball other than Holmgren catches this. pic.twitter.com/NGiiod5Kzz— Justin Reed (@JustinReed99) February 25, 2022
Don’t let it be overlooked, it was still a total team effort by the Zags in their triumph over the Dons. The Gonzaga starters in Timme, Holmgren, Strawther, Bolton, and Nembhard combined for 82 of the team’s 89 total points. Those 5 studs also had 17 assists on their 31 made field goals and grabbed 38 of Gonzaga’s 40 rebounds. You can’t name a better starting lineup in the country than the one that the Zags put out on the floor each and every game.
Regardless of the loss, USF has proven throughout the entire season that they deserve an at-large bid to the Big Dance. Along with that, they deserve some love from college basketball fans when making their picks for the March Madness bracket. Whoever the Dons end up drawing, it will no doubt be a tough out for their opponent.
The undefeated regular season in WCC play is almost complete with one final test for Gonzaga. The Zags are going down under (to beautiful Moraga) to take on #23 Saint Mary’s in the league final on Saturday night on ESPN. Another opportunity to continue to stack that NCAA Tournament resume with a Quad 1 victory.
Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho