Well, well, well, so much for everything being bigger in Texas. Chris Beard and the new look Texas Longhorns rolled into Spokane on a Saturday night and found themselves looking up at Drew Timme and a Gonzaga squad looking to claim its first big win of the season.
A premier non-conference matchup in front of a roaring Kennel was a welcome sight and an important early season test for the Bulldogs. They didn’t squander the opportunity en route to an 86-74 scoreline that flattered the Longhorns. The Zags put on a performance that put the rest of the country on notice that the #1 next to their name is justified, and Drew Timme set a new career high with 37 points (15-19 FG) to go with 7 rebounds to validate his preseason accolades.
Chris Beard’s Texas Tech teams were known for their defensive capabilities. However, it was evident on this evening that his new school still has a lot to figure out on that end if their interior defense, if you can call it that, was any indicator. Timme scored the game’s first basket after he lane opened up for him on a slip screen like it was the Red Sea, and he kept on scoring for the rest of the evening. The Longhorns, for all their combined experience, didn’t have the size or the answers to the questions that Timme posed. It was the type of performance that postseason award voters will remember when it comes time to name the National Player of the Year.
Timme, of course, didn’t dominate Texas on his own. Andrew Nembhard was excellent pulling the strings of the offense and set up Timme perfectly for many of his lay-ins at the basket. Anton Watson (10 points, 5 rebounds) came off the bench and was an X-factor at both ends of the floor. The Longhorns had little interest in coming into the paint when Chet Holmgren was on the floor. Rasir Bolton (16 points) stressed Texas’ transition defense with his speed and ability to finish at the rim.
That Gonzaga so easily separated itself against the #5 team in the country while getting 14 combined points from Holmgren, Julian Strawther, Hunter Sallis, and Nolan Hickman should be a very alarming proposition for the rest of the country.
Of course, Gonzaga is still a work in progress. The perimeter shooting, or lack thereof, will continue to be a concern and the offense still has significant strides to make to reach the level that it is capable of. But for a group that is young and has been anointed as the top team in the country, perhaps the most important area of focus is to avoid the temptation of complacency.
After taking a 47-27 lead into halftime, the first 10 minutes of the second half lacked the same focus and connectedness that helped the Zags build their large lead in the first. The game lost its flow, sure. And the Longhorns deserve credit for locking in and applying a little more pressure on their hosts—they were always going to make a run at some point—but the Zags also cracked open the door due to some mental errors and lax execution. If Gonzaga is to be the juggernaut it is capable of being this season, opposing teams can never be given hope.