The Gonzaga Bulldogs did not require the wild come-from-behind finish that featured in the evening’s earlier rivalry matchup played on the opposite side of the country, as they led wire-to-wire in a dominant 90-60 victory over the Saint Mary’s Gaels.
Drew Timme impressed again with another standout performance as the freshman forward produced a career high 20 points (7-8 FG, 6-6 FT) to go along with 10 rebounds in the midst of a phenomenal stretch of basketball. Gonzaga’s frontcourt throttled an overmatched SMC defense, with Killian Tillie marking his return from an ankle sprain with 19 points and Filip Petrusev picking up a double-double of his own with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Ryan Woolridge (11 points) and Corey Kispert (10 points) rounded out the double-digit scoring for the Zags.
Unsurprisingly, Jordan Ford (23 points, 10-20 FG) and Malik Fitts (12 points) were the only Gaels to reach double figures.
The first 20 minutes of this basketball game proved to be quite the half. The Zags brought their shooting shoes, and were dialed in from the field. If not for a a puzzling string of sloppy turnovers, they could have found themselves up by 20 points by the second media timeout. While the turnovers were uncharacteristically poor—seven turnovers in the first eight minutes—they were the only negative in an otherwise stellar first half as the Zags scored on nearly every other possession that didn’t end in a turnover.
Gonzaga made 14 of its first 15 field goal attempts, and frankly, I was stunned that the net on its basket didn’t start smoking midway through the first half. It was apparent that SMC had no defensive answers, as the only “stops” the Gaels cobbled together were the aforementioned unforced errors that the Zags should rightfully claim on their tax returns under charitable giving. Gonzaga reeled off a 22-2 run—a stretch where it felt like they would never miss another shot again—to create an enormous cushion to go into the break with a 53-28 lead.
It wasn’t just a dominant display on one end of the floor however, as Gonzaga’s defense executed its game plan to perfection and disrupted SMC’s offense which entered the game ranked 11th in KenPom’s offensive efficiency rankings. With the Zags taking away all of SMC’s offensive actions, the Gaels were forced to resort to isolation basketball depending solely on Jordan Ford and Malik Fitts. Those guys are good, and they got their buckets, but the two of them can’t keep up with seven Zags.
The Gaels had no other threats to trouble the Zags, and it was apparent early on that Gonzaga was playing at a different speed than the home team.
Saint Mary’s emerged from halftime with better energy and focus than it displayed at the start of the game, and managed to cut Gonzaga’s lead down to...17 points. That was as close as the game would get as the Zags resumed the beatdown they were applying in the first half.
The surging Timme restored Gonzaga’s lead back to the 20-point threshold by converting a smooth three-point play on the baseline, before Woolridge went on a personal 7-0 run that included one of those alley-oop layup connections with Gilder. Petrusev added further insult to injury when he connected on a 3-pointer at the top of the arc, and even Tillie attempted an ambitious posterizing dunk despite coming off the ankle injury just a week ago.
The remaining entertainment value over the closing minutes was monitoring Randy Bennett’s futile gesticulations on the sideline. It was a perfect night.