This is still the Drew Timme show.
Sure, the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2021 Chet Holmgren had a terrific college basketball debut that put him in a quadruple-double watch. Although the 7’0 freshman certainly has potential to be a top contributor for the No. 1 Bulldogs this season, it was Timme who took over against the No. 5 Texas Longhorns on Saturday night.
It was only the second game of the season, but the 2021-22 AP Preseason All-American isn’t sneaking up on anybody. Gonzaga head coach Mark Few described Timme as “arguably the best player in college basketball.”
“He played like it tonight,” Few said after the Zags’ 86-74 win over Texas.
Timme, a Texas native, ended the night with a career-high 37 points on 15-of-19 shooting from the field, while also grabbing seven rebounds and three assists along the way. He put up 22 points in the first half, which was two more points than all Texas starters had combined in those first 20 minutes.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, Timme is the first Gonzaga player with 30 points against an AP Top 5 team since 2005. He made his career-best performance look easy, and it wasn’t exactly a big surprise.
Last season, the 6’10 forward was the top Gonzaga scorer with an average of 19.0 points per game in 32 games while shooting at 65.5% from the field. He was also the team’s top rebounder. With Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Joel Ayayi having moved on to the NBA level, Timme is the most important returner for the Zags. He was the leading scorer in the West Coast Conference last season and can be expected to do the same this year.
Timme likes a challenge. When the Zags beat San Diego 90-62 on Jan. 28, he wasn’t too thrilled to have scored only 21 points when the Toreros were playing him one-on-one.
“I’m pretty mad at myself. I hope they do it again,” Timme said after that game.
That will probably not happen very often this season. The Longhorns had to double team him to have a chance of disrupting him on Saturday, and obviously this still wasn’t too effective.
Timme can contribute in a lot of different areas, but he is a master in the paint. During the ESPN broadcast, analyst Fran Fraschilla couldn’t say enough about the guy he referred to as “Mr. Zag.”
“He doesn’t just have educated feet, he has a PhD. So few players understand the post like this kid does,” Fraschilla said.
Absolute elite manipulation of the pivot foot here from Drew Timme. pic.twitter.com/rcu6ZcNyvE— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) November 14, 2021
This is Few’s third season coaching Timme and he knows exactly what he can expect from the him. The coach said other members of the roster certainly feed off his energy and “swag.” Timme is known for being a guy who has a lot of talent but also doesn’t take himself too seriously. This was perhaps best represented by his creative facial hair during the NCAA Tournament.
But even when he shows his playful side, Few said Timme represents the balance that Gonzaga basketball is all about.
“He’s a winner, he is a total team guy. Fran was telling me he is the ‘ultimate Zag,’ and he kind of is,” Few said. “He has fun off the floor but when he steps between the lines he is going to give you everything he’s got. He’s an off-the-charts competitor in practice and in games.”
Timme has certainly shown he can be a leader, but it won’t just be him who carries the team. The No. 1 team in the nation has a lot of players who could make significant contributions this season. Holmgren had a quiet performance against Texas, but as the season progresses the freshman could be dangerous on both sides of the ball.
After Saturday’s win, Few also pointed out the importance of a smart point guard like Andrew Nemhard. The coach then mentioned that Anton Watson should also not be overlooked. Few said the sophomore forward is a different player this year and, although it didn’t show in the stat sheet against Texas, he shot the ball “extremely well” from three-point range during summer and preseason.
Rasir Bolton, an Iowa State transfer, was the second best scorer for Gonzaga on Saturday. He picked up 16 points with four of his six field goals made being from beyond the arc, including a terrific half-court shot to end the first period.
HALF-COURT BUZZER-BEATER— ESPN (@espn) November 14, 2021
No. 1 Gonzaga is up 2️⃣0️⃣ at the half on No. 5 Texas pic.twitter.com/4GUfzDD3oP
And then there is Julian Strawther who didn’t have any particularly eye-catching stats against Texas, but showed what he is capable of by registering a double-double during the season opener against Dixie State with 17 points and 10 rebounds while shooting at 54.5% form the field.
Texas was the first of four Preseason Top 25 teams Gonzaga will face in the first month of the 2021-22 college basketball season. The Zags constantly hear comments (including from college basketball insider Jon Rothstein) regarding their membership in the WCC, which is considered a weaker conference. But they have shown they are not afraid to compete against anybody.
Their non-conference schedule won’t be a walk in the park. Gonzaga will have a rematch of the Final Four game against No. 2 UCLA in Las Vegas on Nov. 23, and then face the No. 9 Duke three days later. A week after that, the Bulldogs fly home to host No. 14 Alabama. These won’t be easy wins, but Timme said his coach has taught them to embrace the pressure.
“Something coach does an amazing job of is just telling us that being able to be in pressure situations is a privilege,” Timme said. “You don’t get to just waltz into a Top 5 game, you have to earn it and you have to prove yourself that you can be in that situation. We don’t take these games for granted.”