The Zags easily take the first of their three games in Vegas.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs opened their week-long stay at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with a dominant victory over the Central Michigan Chippewas that suggests they are feeling confident leading up to the two biggest games on their non-conference schedule later this week.
11 different Zags scored in the game including five in double figures. Chet Holmgren led all scorers with 19 points including a pair of three-pointers that highlighted the broad range of his skillset. Nolan Hickman set a new career high with 16 points off the bench on 7-11 shooting from the field. Julian Strawther (15), Drew Timme (11), and Rasir Bolton (11) rounded out the double figure scorers while Hunter Sallis and Anton Watson just missed out though they both stuffed the stat sheets in a number of categories.
The Zags opened the game going to their freshman unicorn in Holmgren who duly converted his first attempt to secure a lead that Gonzaga would never relinquish. Gonzaga put on a clinic for its beleaguered opponent, playing with greater effort and sharing the ball far better than the Chippewas who inexplicably tried to beat the nation’s top team with isolation basketball after seemingly abandoning their offensive gameplan. Needless to say, it didn’t work out for them.
Gonzaga’s depth and philosophy was best displayed by the fact that nine different Zags took the floor in the first half and each of them scored at least four points while suffocating Central Michigan’s offense at the other end of the floor en route to a 56-32 lead at the break.
The halftime break didn’t do much to reset Central Michigan’s mojo or cool off the Death Star that is Gonzaga. In fact, it seemed like the Chippewas only emerged from the locker room because they had to, as the Zags widened the gap even further and even doubled up their opponents on the scoreboard multiple times, including the ignominy of a 100-50 deficit with more than three minutes left to play that only grew larger.
The Bulldogs moved the ball with such ease and unselfishness that coaching staffs around the country at all levels were probably cutting up a highlight reel to show their teams what quality offensive basketball looks like. It was an aesthetically pleasing performance, and exactly what you want to see from Gonzaga in advance of Top 5 showdowns against UCLA and Duke in the next two games. That the starters got plenty of rest—Andrew Nembhard and Drew Timme only played 14 and 15 minutes respectively—was even better as they will be leaned on heavily the rest of the week.
Whether Gonzaga can maintain its high standard against much better competition will be what determines if it remains the nation’s top team at the end of the week.