Courtesy of Chiana McInelly, The Gonzaga Bulletin
After losing three of its top four scorers to the NBA last year, the biggest question of this season for Gonzaga was how — or whether — it could replace the bulk of its offensive production.
The job largely fell to Drew Timme, who led his team in scoring last year with 19 points per game. While there’s still plenty of the season left to test the Zags and Timme, he had no problem living up to the challenge against the No. 5 team in the country.
The Bulldogs dominated 86-74 against the Longhorns Saturday night in Spokane, and Timme ended up scoring almost half of Gonzaga’s points.
Timme finished the night with a career-best performance of 37 points and the ninth highest single-game tally for a Gonzaga basketball player in the history of its program.
Even more impressive, Timme delivered his beatdown by shooting 15-19 from the field. He scored another seven points off nine free throw attempts, tallied three assists and grabbed seven rebounds, three of them on the offensive glass.
On paper, Texas should have all the defensive chops to shut Timme down. Head coach Chris Beard has made a career out of well-orchestrated, defensive basketball. He recruited some of the best collegiate players in the world to fill out his team and has an incredibly physical, athletic roster.
But Timme showed Beard’s squad still can’t sing in time or in tune quite yet.
The 6-foot-10-inch, 235-pound forward scored every which way you can imagine Saturday night. He sliced through post defenders with deft agility, bullied his way to the basket with his stalwart size and gave Beard a headache as he continually circumvented Texas’ defensive schemes. Many of his points came under open baskets, with torched defenders scrambling to get in front of him.
Texas’ woes began with a personnel mismatch. You need elite talent to guard an elite scorer. Tre Mitchell, Timmy Allen and Christian Bishop are, holistically, elite players, but they earn a lot of their worth from their offensive capabilities.
Timme’s size advantage was a key factor. Outsized and unable to leverage their athletic prowess, Mitchell, Allen and Bishop all struggled when they had to fall back onto more skills-based defense, an unusual occurrence for men of their size.
Beyond the players themselves, there was a clear breakdown in defensive structure for the Longhorns. Timme frequently found open routes to the hole off simple pick-and-roll plays. Standing at 6-feet-2-inches, guard Marcus Carr was routinely forced to guard Timme as the Longhorn’s rotation was exploited.
By the time Texas began doubling the Zags’ star forward near the end of the first half, he had already scored 20 points.
Texas ended the night as helpless against Timme as it began it. If the team wants to be serious playoff contenders in March, Beard has to adapt his defense to shut down — or at least hinder — superstar talent.