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Gonzaga Basketball

Analysis: Defense delivers happy homecoming for Gonzaga’s Texas trio in blowout win over Aggies

Gonzaga guard Ryan Woolridge, right,  dives for a loose ball against Texas A&M guard Savion Flagg  during the first half Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, in College Station, Texas. (Sam Craft / AP)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The chant “D up” came from the upper reaches of Section 124, where a small knot of Gonzaga fans, including family and friends of the three Zags from Texas, were making plenty of noise.

And that’s exactly what the Zags did.

Gonzaga shut out Texas A&M over an 8-minute, 43-second stretch, turning a small deficit into a comfortable lead and providing all the cushion the Zags would need in an impressive 79-49 victory Friday night in front of an announced crowd of 10,344 at Reed Arena.

The Texas homecoming couldn’t have gone much better for Admon Gilder, Ryan Woolridge and Drew Timme.

Gilder, a grad transfer from Texas A&M, didn’t even make it to the court for warm-ups before he was stopped by a friendly face wearing a Texas A&M polo.

Exiting the court after the rout, Timme stopped to hug four friends he grew up with in Richardson, Texas, while Woolridge, a grad transfer from North Texas, smiled as he pointed at a sizable group of supporters.

In between, Gilder and Woolridge shared team-high scoring honors with 16 points and combined for five of GU’s seven 3-pointers. Timme added 11 points, five rebounds, four steals and two blocks.

“It’s been an enjoyable few days,” said Gilder, who posed for dozens of postgame pictures with fans and friends while holding 3-year-old daughter Kailey. “Having her in my arms, it means the world to me. It’s the reason why I do this. I’m glad to be home and we got the win. That’s the only thing that mattered to me.”

Woolridge excelled at both ends of the court and it was also a sweet night for Timme, who said Gonzaga and Texas A&M were his final two schools.

“It’s not easy to come back, definitely not easy for Admon to come back to a school he was just at. These games are hard enough,” GU coach Mark Few said. “He was terrific. Ryan was special and Drew did what Drew does. He’s physical and he made plays.”

Early on, it appeared No. 8 Gonzaga was going to be in for a battle. The Zags stacked up empty possessions, missing 12 of their first 15 shots and struggling against the Aggies’ athleticism at times.

“We had our scrimmage with Michigan State, but I would even say (the Aggies) are quicker, more athletic and much more bouncy around the rim than anyone we played thus far,” Few said. “We did have to recalibrate and then they listened to the coaches and stuck with the plan. They executed well, basically from the 15-minute mark on.”

The battle was still on at the 11:10 mark when Josh Nebo’s two free throws put Texas A&M up 14-11. The Aggies didn’t score again until Nebo’s putback with 2:26 left in the half. By then, the Zags had rattled off 20 unanswered points and their lead reached 23 before settling for a 40-19 halftime edge.

Texas A&M went 0 of 9 from the field – two shots swatted away by Joel Ayayi and Corey Kispert – and committed three turnovers during the scoring drought. The Aggies made one field goal in the final 13:40 of the first half.

Gonzaga (4-0) curbed the Aggies’ dribble penetration that had caused problems earlier. Possession after possession ended with the patient Aggies running short of time on the shot clock. They forced shots or worse, turned it over, miscues that jump-started Gonzaga’s offense.

“We just picked up the energy on both sides of the court, started communicating with each other, figuring out which call we were going to run and we stayed on the same page,” Woolridge said. “That (dwindling time on shot clock) could be a tribute to our defense. It’s tough when you’re trying to shoot at the last second.”

Gilder’s 3-pointer gave Gonzaga its first lead, 16-14, and Woolridge followed with a floater and a layup on the break. Woolridge kept the pedal down with a 3-pointer before taking a hard fall while being fouled on a layup attempt.

Woolridge left the game briefly with a cut on his knee, so Gilder, fittingly, hit the pair of free throws for his fellow Texan. The 20-0 barrage ended with Timme’s layup, giving GU a 31-14 advantage.

“Defense-to-offense points, that’s what makes us great,” Gilder said. “I know we can score at any given time on offense. As long as we get those defense-to-offense points, that’s going to make it even better.”

Late in the first half, GU’s Anton Watson suffered a left shoulder subluxation that popped back into place as he was walking to the bench. The freshman forward returned to play 11 productive minutes in the second half. Woolridge took a couple of hard spills absorbing fouls and was sporting a tender wrist.

Texas A&M finished with just 17 field goals, five assists and 18 turnovers.