Chet Holmgren, a 7-foot Gonzaga freshman, blocked a shot, caught the rebound, carried the ball to the length of the court, dribbled around his back to lose his defender, and dunked with two hands.
“It was not a shock,” Gonzaga forward Drew Timme said after the game. “It’s what we expect of him and what he expects of himself. It’s just Chet. He’s one of a kind.”
It was only one basket, and it came early in the second half, but it was a thrashing No. 1 Gonzaga of 83-63 to No. 2 UCLA in a meeting of two of the nation’s best college basketball teams on Tuesday night.
It offered a clear glimpse of the early-season gap between the top-ranked Zags (6-0) and UCLA (5-1) just months after they played a very close game in the Final Four.
For Gonzaga, defeating UCLA was a step toward his goal of becoming like UCLA. The men’s basketball program has won 11 NCAA championships in its history, the Gonzaga Zero. The Bulldogs want what the Bruins have: the championship banner at the Rafters.
When the teams last met in April, it was in the Final Four with a spot in the national championship game on the line.
In one of the most lucrative games of the NCAA Tournament, Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs beat Buzzer in overtime and pounded a 3-pointer from 40 feet to give the Bulldogs a thrilling 3-point victory. After two nights, Gonzaga was barred from becoming the first team since Indiana in 1976 to complete an undefeated season with the NCAA championship, when they lost to Baylor in the title game by 16 points.
When Gonzaga and UCLA reunited Tuesday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the stakes weren’t as high, and the game wasn’t nearly as close.
Four Bulldogs scored in double digits, including senior point guard Andrew Nembard (24 points) and star freshman Holmgren (15 points, six rebounds and four blocks). The latter, still only 19, showed the skill set that brought some 25 NBA scouts to the game.
Scouts were thinking about next summer’s draft. Holmgren insists he isn’t looking that far.
“I’m worried about our team and how we can get better every day, so that we can be the best when it comes to March,” Holmgren said on ESPN. “That’s pretty much what I’m focused on.”
Gonzaga entered the game in second place in Division I with 93.2 points per game and quickly overtook UCLA as it took a 16-6, 24-8 and 33-10 lead on the way to a 45-25 halftime lead. Took. The Bulldogs cut the Bruins in the transition, outscoring them 18-5 at the fast-break point. UCLA star Johnny Juzang, the leading scorer in the NCAA Tournament, scored 5-of-11 for 11 points as Gonzaga put UCLA on 35 percent shooting.
Gonzaga may never be considered an original Blue Bloods program like UCLA, but they are a far cry from the Cinderella organization that reached its first Final Eight in 1999.
Now there is a goal, and anything small will be considered a failure.
Timme, the team’s top player and nominee for national player of the year, told fans at Gonzaga’s Midnight Madness event, “We’re having it this year: Just be prepared.”
According to the Caesars Sportsbook, even after losing three players, including the Suggs, to the NBA, Gonzaga remains the 6-1 betting favorite to win the title in April. UCLA is in second place, 12-1.
It was the third time in the history of The Associated Press Top 25 poll that the No. 1 and 2 men’s and women’s teams faced off in one day. On Monday, No. 1 South Carolina beat No. 2 Yukon, 73-57, in the Bahamas, and the Huskies slipped to No. 3 with a loss in the national rankings.
Under coach Mark Few, Gonzaga has reached two of the last four championship games, also losing to North Carolina in 2017. They have been in the top three of the AP rankings for 34 consecutive weeks as of December 16, 2019 and have won 30. -Plus game five years in a row.
The Bulldogs began the season without Feu, who served a three-game suspension covering the preseason and regular season after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor driving under the influence in Idaho in September. But now Gonzaga is almost a lock to extend his run of 21 straight NCAA Tournaments.
Gonzaga’s previous success came thanks to a steady stream of NBA players, many of them international prospects: Rui Hachimura (Japan), Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania) and Kelly Olinek (Canada).
But the Zags are now successfully recruiting American prospects. Suggs, a Minneapolis native, was the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft by the Orlando Magic, and rail-thin Holmgren, who was the No. 1 recruit in his class and Suggs’ former high school and AAU teammate, is the one this season. Estimated Top-Two Pick in
By scheduling high-profile non-conference opponents like UCLA and No. 5 Duke, Gonzaga has not only compensated for his weak league schedule, but also appealed to the nation’s top recruits.
“The challenge for Gonzaga has been to break with the upper echelons of the states,” said Eric Bossi, 247 Sports’ national recruiting director. “A big key is going out and playing these big games, because the big-time players want to make sure they’re going to be able to get that national exposure.”
Gonzaga made a big statement earlier this season with an 86-74 victory at No. 5 Texas on November 13th. Now his latest big week continues on Friday, when he will face Duke in Las Vegas in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season.