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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Contrasting styles collide: Gonzaga’s high-powered offense vs. Virginia’s stingy defense

Dec. 25, 2020 Updated Sat., Dec. 26, 2020 at 11:52 a.m.

Gonzaga forward Drew Timme, here grabbing a rebound against Northwestern State on Tuesday night, returns to his native Texas for Saturday’s game against Virginia in Fort Worth.  (By Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Drew Timme, here grabbing a rebound against Northwestern State on Tuesday night, returns to his native Texas for Saturday’s game against Virginia in Fort Worth. (By Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

The first page of Gonzaga’s game notes details its high-flying offense ranking in the top 10 in three key statistical categories and the No. 2 spot in KenPom’s offensive efficiency.

Page 2 of Virginia’s release offers a list of the team’s position nationally in points allowed under coach Tony Bennett, who took over the Cavaliers after three years as Washington State’s head coach (2007-09). In the past 10 years, Virginia has been first six times and second twice.

They say styles make fights, and we’d suggest that also applies to the basketball court.

No. 1 Gonzaga’s tour of top programs takes on a whole new look when it clashes with No. 16 Virginia at 1 p.m. PST Saturday at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

“Virginia is such a different entity,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said after a 95-78 win over Northwestern State on Tuesday. “Most of these teams we’ve been playing have played with pace. I was looking at a stat that they’re the slowest paced team in America, but they’re very good at what they do.

“Their defense is elite. They don’t allow transition baskets and make you score in the half court. They’ll be very patient at the other end, and we need to be patient guarding them.”

KenPom has Gonzaga sixth in adjusted tempo, with 76.3 possessions per 40 minutes. Virginia is dead last at 61.0.

The Cavaliers are second nationally in fouls committed (12.6 per game) and turnovers (8.4). They limit opponents to 54 points (fourth nationally) and 36.3-percent shooting. They gave up a season-high 64 points in an overtime win against Kent State.

The Zags (6-0) have scored at least 87 points in every game this season and have found ranked foes Kansas, West Virginia and Iowa generally willing to play at a quicker pace, which suits Gonzaga’s transition game.

Meanwhile, preseason Atlantic Coast Conference favorite Virginia (4-1) has scored at least 70 points four times after reaching that level just twice last season.

A win would give Gonzaga four victories over ranked opponents prior to its conference schedule for the first time in program history.

This matchup came together nine days ago, after COVID-19 messed with both teams’ schedules. The Zags missed out on a date with Baylor on CBS, while Virginia’s games against Michigan State and Villanova were called off.

“It was a situation where we wanted to fulfill our obligation with CBS,” Few said. “We weren’t able to with the Baylor situation and we tried and tried and tried. Then it was just what teams were available.”

Gonzaga forward Drew Timme was recruited by Virginia, but that’s not the reason he’s eager for Saturday’s game. He’s from Richardson, just north of Dallas and a short drive from Fort Worth.

“Nice Christmas present,” Timme said. “I’m a big homebody guy. I love Texas, love Dallas and my family and friends, and I didn’t think I was going to be able to see them until summer.”

A limited number of fans will be allowed to attend.

“I mean, like, half the city maybe if they can get in, maybe all the city,” Timme joked when asked how many friends and family might be at the game. “It’s a lot. It might feel like a little bit of a home game for us.

“It’s going to be a great challenge for us. They play a totally different style of ball.”

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