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Gonzaga Basketball
Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Mixed results for Gonzaga against college basketball marquee players

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 15, 2020

It’s the early season game of the year after the previous early season game of the year was called off in response to COVID-19 issues.

Two weeks after No. 1 Gonzaga-No. 2 Baylor was shelved, the Zags are scheduled to face No. 3 Iowa – and player of the year favorite Luka Garza – on Saturday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Gonzaga has faced seven player of the year award winners, including its NCAA Tournament debut in 1995 against No. 10 Maryland and POY Joe Smith. “It’s not exactly David vs. Goliath, but it might be the prelim to it,” coach Dan Fitzgerald cracked.

The Zags shut down Smith, but Maryland still pulled away 87-63.

Here’s a look at GU’s results vs. POYs since 1995.

First dance

Gonzaga lost its first six conference games before heating up and sweeping through the WCC Tournament behind John Rillie’s 20 3-pointers and tourney-record 96 points in three wins.

GU forward Jason Rubright outplayed the All-American Smith, who was in foul trouble and played just 24 minutes. Rubright and center Paul Rogers combined for 26 points and 14 boards.

It wasn’t nearly enough. Third-seeded Maryland owned the boards 49-30, and Duane Simpkins poured in 21 points and Exree Hipp added 15.

Smith won the Naismith Trophy that season while UCLA’s Ed O’Bannon earned the Wooden Award.

Martin paces Bearcats past GU

Eventual POY Kenyon Martin and No. 1 Cincinnati built a 20-point first-half lead before weathering a GU rally for a 75-68 win at the Rock-N-Roll Shootout in Cleveland early in the 2000 season.

Martin finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. He swatted dunk attempts by Axel Dench and Casey Calvary. Steve Logan drilled four 3s and scored 21 points.

The Zags, coming off a 1999 run to the Elite Eight, were led by Richie Frahm (16 points), Calvary (13) and Matt Santangelo (12 points, six assists). Calvary suffered a cut under his eye when he dunked over Martin in second half.

Nelson leads Hawks in 2003-04 opener

Jameer Nelson had 20 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, leading No. 17 Saint Joseph’s past No. 10 Gonzaga 73-66 at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in New York City.

Nelson was just 6 of 20 from the field, but he wowed the Madison Square Garden crowd with fearless drives to the rim. Delonte West added 16 points for the Hawks.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in the country who can handle him one-on-one,” coach Mark Few told The Spokesman-Review’s Steve Bergum. “It’s hard to imagine that a 5-11 kid like that can dominate a basketball game, but he did.”

Gonzaga’s Cory Violette had 13 points and 11 rebounds and Adam Morrison added 10 points.

Zags thump Durant and Texas

Freshman phenom Kevin Durant put up 29 points and nine rebounds, but the experienced Zags cruised 87-77 in Phoenix at the Hall of Fame Challenge during the 2006-07 season.

Durant made 8 of 18 shots, including 3 of 7 on 3-pointers, and all 10 of his free throws, but he committed five turnovers. Texas scored the game’s final 18 points after trailing by 27.

Gonzaga’s Derek Raivio hit seven 3s and scored 27 points. Jeremy Pargo chipped in 18 points and Josh Heytvelt finished with 13 points and 11 boards.

Durant averaged 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds in his only season at Texas. The Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award winner was taken second overall by Seattle in the 2007 draft.

Jimmer, BYU roll past GU

Jimmer Fredette, the 2011 player of the year, torched the Zags with seven 3-pointers and 34 points in BYU’s 89-67 second-round NCAA Tournament win in Denver.

“You got Jimmered,” thousands of BYU fans chanted in the closing seconds.

Gonzaga’s Elias Harris and Steven Gray each scored 18 points and Robert Sacre added 17. BYU made 14 3s and shot 52.5% from the field.

“As soon as Jimmer catches fire, everybody steps up,” Harris said. “They were hot. They played great, to a man.”

Zags no match for Brunson, Villanova

The 2018 national champion Wildcats pounded No. 12 Gonzaga 88-72 in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.

Eventual player of the year Jalen Brunson had solid stats – 12 points, five assists, five rebounds – but was limited to 21 minutes due to foul trouble. Brunson had plenty of help from Mikal Bridges (28 points), Phil Booth (20) and Omari Spellman (10 points, 10 rebounds).

Zach Norvell Jr. scored 22 points and Josh Perkins had 16, but the Zags were stung by 19 turnovers.

“They’re very connected and playing at a really high level,” coach Mark Few said. “Very impressive to see firsthand.”

GU topples No. 1 Duke, Williamson

This one had it all: future pros all over the court, milestones and a memorable ending.

Gonzaga outlasted Duke 89-87 to win the 2018 Maui Invitational championship, earning the program’s first victory over an AP No. 1-ranked opponent.

Tourney MVP Rui Hachimura posted up RJ Barrett and scored the go-ahead bucket with 1:10 left. Brandon Clarke swatted six shots, including Barrett’s shot in the lane just before the buzzer.

Freshman Zion Williamson, who would win the Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy, had 22 points and 10 rebounds. Hachimura finished with 20 points, Norvell added 18 and Clarke 17.

“You have to play great against Duke,” Few said, “and I thought we played great.”

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