Tuesday, September 27, 2022

No. 1 Gonzaga turns showdown with No. 2 UCLA in Route 83-63. NWN News

LAS VEGAS (NWN) – Chet Holmgren kicks the ball off the backboard, spins and cools it to the floor like a spider leg point guard. He lost a defender with a dribble behind his back at the top of the key, took two steps and extended his 7-foot-1 frame for a two-handed dunk.

Gonzaga’s slim freshman has an unmatched skill set. His team may not even have any rival at this time.

Holmgren put on a show with a variety of dunks and blocked shots, and top-ranked Gonzaga defeated No. 2 UCLA 83-63 on Tuesday night to win the Empire Classic.

“It was not a shock to any of us,” said Gonzaga forward Drew Timmey. “It’s what we expect of him and what he expects of himself. It’s just Chet. He’s one of a kind.”

The Zags (6-0) played like a Vegas headliner, showing that there is a huge difference between No. 1 and current No. 2 with a dazzling performance at both ends. The Gonzaga Shell stunned UCLA (5-1) with a big opening attack and never gave up on defeating their second top-5 team this season.

Holmgren stole the show several times as a solo artist, denying shots, swooping to stings, and wowing the crowd with his agility. He finished with 15 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots.

According to UCLA coach Mick Cronin, Andrew Nembhardt was the best player on the floor, finishing with 24 points. Timme was smart as ever, scoring 18 points in a raucous atmosphere that felt like March Madness.

“It reminded me of something you would see in a regional final or a regional semifinal,” said Gonzaga’s coach Mark Few. “It was a good atmosphere and it matched perfectly to the game, what was at stake and the two teams that were out.”

Jaime Jaquez Jr. K had 19 points, but he had to work for what he got, and pre-season All-American Johnny Juzang was held on to 11 points.

UCLA found some momentum after an ugly offensive in the first half, but had no chance of stopping the Zags, who shot 56%.

“We’re not a good defensive team and we got exposed by a great team,” Cronin said.

The Strip’s bright lights flashed over college hoops throughout the week, with No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 Duke, No. 12 Houston, Arizona, Oregon and Wisconsin appearing on the marquee.

Top billing went to the Pacific Time Zone teams’ first No. 1 vs. No. 2 meeting.

The Zags and the Bruins played an all-timer in Indianapolis last April, an epic Final Four game that Gonzaga won over a 3-point buzzer beater from Jalen Suggs.

Gonzaga lost to the Suggs and a few others, but filled in some roster holes with transfers and the talented freshman, titled by Holmgren. The Zags have looked just as good, averaging 31.3 points in their first six games.

UCLA has returned everyone, although Big Man Cody Riley has been out since injuring his knee in the season opener. The Bruins didn’t look so good against Bellarmine on Monday, with Cronin saying his team was unprepared for Gonzaga after a 75-62 win.

he was right.

Gonzaga was at his free-flowing best on offense, ripping the Bruins apart with crisp cuts and passes. The Zags made eight of their first nine shots and used 19-2 runs to go up 29-8. Despite the slow pace, Gonzaga held a 45-25 lead at halftime.

“We didn’t put up much resistance,” Cronin said.

The Zags created even more problems with their fast hands and feet, shooing away passes and shots to set up opportunities for infection.

UCLA took several difficult shots and missed most of the Open in the first half, making 11 for 41 off the ground.

Even as the Bruins began to solve Gonzaga’s defense somewhat in the second half, they couldn’t stop the Zags.

Holmgren put a punctuation mark on the crush, hit a 3 and ran back, waving to the crowd.

big picture

Cronin nailed it when he said his team was not ready for Gonzaga. The Bruins steamrolled and will likely drop several places on Monday’s NWN Top 25.

Those all-new pieces fit in well with the old ones at Gonzaga, especially Holmgren.

dicky v returns

Dickie V is back, baby!

ESPN analyst Dick Vitale was behind the microphone at the T-Mobile Arena for the first time since his cancer treatment.

The 82-year-old announced in October that he had lymphoma and was undergoing his fourth round of treatment, days before Tuesday’s game. Vitale became emotional at the opening of the broadcast and received a warm welcome when it was shown on the video board inside the arena.

“He just loves the sport and has done so much for the sport,” said some. “What an ambassador he is for college basketball.”


UCLA plays UNLV on Saturdays.

5 Duke in Las Vegas on Friday.


More NWN College Basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25


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