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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Recap and highlights: No. 5 Gonzaga pulls away from Merrimack in second half to win 80-55 behind strong defensive performance

Dec. 9, 2021 Updated Thu., Dec. 9, 2021 at 9:37 p.m.

No. 5 Gonzaga handled Merrimack in the Kennel on Thursday, using its defense and interior offense to overcome lackluster shooting and 17 turnovers.

The Bulldogs (8-2), beat the Warriors (4-7) 80-55 behind Drew Timme’s 22 points and Chet Holmgren and Julian Strawther’s 15 apiece.

Timme shot 8 of 8 from the field and had 20 points in the first half, which gave the Bulldogs an 11 point lead at the break. The Zags dominated the final 20 minutes outscoring MC 38-24. 

GU shot 5 of 22 on 3-pointers, as Rasir Bolton went 0-for-5 from deep and Nolan Hickman went 0-for-4.

The Bulldogs will ultimately be happy with the win, but the shooting – or lack thereof – will be a talking point going forward, and a weakness opponents will look to exploit, as Alabama did in the Battle in Seattle.

GU will have a long 9-day break until playing Texas Tech in Phoenix, Arizona, on Dec. 18, after its game against Washington scheduled for Sunday was canceled. 

First half

17:29 - GU 6, MC 0: Bolton comes away with a steal and passes to Strawther for a layup. Both teams yet to hit from deep on five combined attempts.

15:23 - GU 10, MC 4: Zags getting it done inside, going 4 of 5 on field goals inside the 3-point line at the first media timeout. Timme leads with four points and four GU starters have scored.

Merrimack starts 2 of 6 from the field and will have two free throw attempts when play resumes after a foul on Nembhard.

11:21 - GU 16, MC 12: Merrimack is hanging with the Zags at the second media timeout. The Warriors have forced four turnovers and connect on their first 3-pointer of the game with a shot from Reid.

MC 1 of 6 on 3-pointers, while GU is 0-for-4. Zags shooting 50% from the field, while the Warriors are at 38.5 and being out-rebounded 10-to-5.

7:40 - GU 25, MC 18: Minor converts an and-1 and will have a free throw attempt when play resumes from the U-8 media timeout.

Timme leading all scorers with 12 points on 4 of 4 shooting. Zags still 0-for-5 from 3-point range. Both teams with five turnovers.

Notably elsewhere in the country, No. 1 Purdue lost to Rutgers at the buzzer on a wild 3-point heave reminiscent of Jalen Suggs’ shot to beat UCLA last April.

3:50 - GU 30, MC 24: The Zags are living at the free throw line going 10 of 12 for a third of their points. No field goals in the last 3:06 minutes for the Bulldogs, but are out-rebounding the Warriors 18-9. 

No 3-pointers for GU, shooting 0-for-6, while MC is 2 of 8 from deep. Chet Holmgren is a big part of GU’s six point lead with three blocks, four rebounds and five points.


Drew Timme leading the way for Gonzaga, which hasn’t had the best scoring night, but has vastly improved its performance from the free throw line and its playing stout defense.

Timme has 20 points on 7 of 7 shooting from the field and has gone 6-for-6 on free throws. That won’t come as a surprise, and neither is Chet Holmgren adding an impressive defensive performance with three blocks and four rebounds.

GU won’t be happy with two aspects of its game in the first half – common themes for much of the young season. The Zags have eight turnovers and are 0 of 6 from 3-point range, allowing Merrimack to remain in the game, despite shooting 12 of 31 from the field and 2 of 9 from deep.

Impact performance

Second Half

19:01 - GU 45, MC 31: Holmgren finally snaps GU’s scoreless streak on 3-pointers on the teams’ eighth attempt.

17:35 - GU 50, MC 31: Still no points for the Warriors to start the half, as the Zags open the period on a 8-0 run after Strawther sinks a 3-pointer.

11:49 - GU 62, MC 36: Dominating half for the Zags, outscoring the Warriors 20-5 and are 8 of 12 from the field, including 4-for-8 on 3-pointers after going the entire first half without a one.

MC is 2 of 15 from the field since the break.

6:29 - GU 69, MC 44: Not much left for the Zags than to kill the clock, as this one is pretty much over.

Holmgren gets a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Strawther joins he and Timme in double figures with 15. 

Starting 5

No changes to GU’s starting five, which it has rolled out for every game this season. 


No. 5 Gonzaga takes on Merrimack at 6 p.m. on KHQ/Root+, looking for a statement win after back-to-back lackluster performances.

The Zags (7-2) lost to then-No. 16 Alabama 91-82 in Seattle last Saturday, capping a sloppy week that started with an unimpressive 64-55 win over Tarleton State.

The Warriors (4-6) bring a 2-3 zone defense to the Kennel from North Andover, Massachusetts. That defensive strategy is designed to limit perimeter offense – something the Zags have struggled with this season.

This will be the only game this week for the Bulldogs, as Sunday’s game against Washington was called off due to the Huskies continued recovery from a COVID-19 outbreak


Game preview

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