The Gonzaga Bulldogs roll through the North Florida Ospreys only to be humbled by the Michigan State Spartans.
How can I say the Zags were humbled by Michigan State when they won the game? The Gonzaga Bulldogs had to fight for every point and every rebound. It wasn’t your regular Gonzaga Bulldog bulldozer game. But let’s start from the beginning—the Zags vs. North Florida.
Gonzaga Bulldogs (104) North Florida Ospreys (63)
Seeing the Bulldogs back was a joy.
The game started with North Florida taking a 10-8 lead over Gonzaga. That helped to stir the Zags to action. They went on a 26-0 run, forcing 8 UNF turnovers in the process.
Some of the Zags’ offseason questions were answered in the opener.
Coach Mark Few started with a small ball lineup. The initial five were Drew Timme, Anton Watson, Julian Strawther, Rasir Bolton, and Nolan Hickman, with the latter playing as the third guard.
There were some nice passes (Anton Watson behind the back to Nolan Hickman) and great surprises – at the 0:21.5 mark in the first half, who should show up but Dominick Harris.
Like many Gonzaga pre-conference games against non-Power 5 schools, everyone got a chance to play in this blowout. We got to see how the transfer players fit into the lineup, and wow.
The tandem of Watson (10 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals) and Efton Reid III (8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals) was excellent. Malachi Smith continued his award-winning play (15 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists).
Timme put up 22 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block. The results of his hard work since the NCAA Tournament were visible, especially how he has better control of the ball.
The other starters produced as well. Strawther had 16 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block, while Bolton scored 11 points with 2 rebounds and 3 assists); Hickman chipped in 6 points, 2 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Hunter Sallis, off the bench, also showed his offseason development scoring 10 points with 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. When I tell you this young man was everywhere, he was everywhere on both sides of the floor.
What had to be the highlight was seeing Harris back on the floor. Colby Brooks also got a chance on the floor.
Gonzaga Bulldogs (64) vs. Michigan State Spartans (63)
Before even talking about the game, we must describe where this game took place. It was aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln at the Naval Air Station, North Island, San Diego.
The teams had a beautiful atmosphere to play in for the Peraton Armed Forces Classic. Drew Timme likened it “to the feeling of playing hoops in a park as a kid, only this time it was on the flight deck of one of the world’s most powerful ships.”
I hope this is the most challenging game the Zags play this year, although I know the Power 5 games coming will have the same intensity. Speaking of intensity, this was an intense game.
I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. The Bulldogs will always play this type of team in the Big 12.
It was a little more of a low-scoring game than we usually see from the Zags. Michigan State took a 38-31 lead into the half. Gonzaga answered the bell. They came back from a double-digit second-half deficit to win this game.
Toward the end of the second half, the Bulldogs sent everything through Drew Timme. The center had 22 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks. However, it was the 22 points that concerned me. Gonzaga can’t always depend on Timme in the paint.
According to Timme:
“It’s definitely something different. It’s something you don’t experience every day. I think growing up playing in the park is something that helped us. And look, they had to play on it too. … It wasn’t the prettiest game to watch but it was just put your nose in the dirt and keep going and don’t stop and I thought it was a true test of our grit and heart and I think we did a good job of answering the bell today.”
Along with Timme’s 22 points came Julian Strawther with 13 points and 9 rebounds. Nolan Hickman was the only other player with double digits with 10 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
It’s not a big problem that other players never got to double digits. The Zags played off the ball which helped them to get this victory.
In my eyes, it was a surprising victory I didn’t expect. The Spartans had their way in the first half as Gonzaga committed 11 turnovers. Watson left the game with four fouls in the second half. Reid came in and clogged the paint through no fault of his own.
The matchup between Gonzaga’s Malachi Smith and Michigan State’s A.J. Hoggard was intense. The Spartans led by 45-33. The Gonzaga Bulldogs went on an 11-0 run bringing the Bulldogs within six, 50-44. With five minutes left, Timme tied the game 55/55.
Well, we know how it ends. MSU missed a go ahead basket at the end to give Gonzaga the win. The Zags are now 2-0.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs travel to the Moody Center in Austin, Texas, to play #12, Texas, on November 16. Texas defeated Houston Christian 82-31. So I guess we’re looking forward to this.
After that, Kentucky visits Spokane on Sunday, November 20.