When it happens, it happens fast.
Lewis-Clark State learned Friday night in an exhibition game at McCarthey Athletic Center.
Many of Gonzaga’s opponents figure to get the same lesson through the course of the 2021-22 season.
The NAIA Warriors were trailing the Bulldogs by 17 points with 7 minutes left in the first half when the avalanche started with Drew Timme’s layup and three-point play. Less than 3 minutes later, it culminated when Anton Watson pulled down a defensive rebound, dribbled the length of the floor and finished the sequence with a layup while drawing contact that earned him a trip to the free-throw line.
Over the course of 157 seconds, Gonzaga used a brisk and at times breakneck pace to outscore Lewis-Clark State 17-0 and extend the lead to 34 points.
More of the same followed in the second half. Even as GU’s starters struggled to find consistency from the 3-point line, the Bulldogs had no trouble dialing up triple digits for the second consecutive game or stimulating a sellout Kennel crowd with the normal array of highlight dunks and blocks while winning 112-62 in their final preseason tuneup.
The top-ranked Bulldogs open the regular season against Dixie State on at 6 p.m. Tuesday before hosting Texas at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in a heavily anticipated matchup of top-five teams.
“Our offense has always been explosive here, the ability to get out in transition is huge to us and something we work on every day and when we can do it off of our defense, it’s even better – it’s harder when you’re taking the ball out of the net,” said assistant Brian Michaelson, who’ll serve as GU’s acting head coach once more on Tuesday as Mark Few finishes a three-game suspension. “So I thought it started on the defensive end. I think Anton was a huge catalyst to that.
“His first half I was really, really happy with. I thought he was the guy that totally flipped the game, got our team’s energy going, got our defensive identity going.”
During Gonzaga’s 17-0 burst, Watson had five of his seven points, two steals, one assist and one rebound. The junior from Spokane pilfered the ball from LCSC’s Kalani Sapwell near halfcourt before converting a layup on the other end. Watson’s activity on the defensive end produced another reward on the next LCSC possession when the 6-foot-8 forward pried the ball away from Kevin Baker before pushing ahead to Hunter Sallis for a layup.
“It was pretty clear it was Anton,” Timme said postgame when asked what triggered the scoring run. “He just came in and did what he’s best at, just mucking everything up. He deserves all the credit for that. He really got our energy up, he got everyone going, he was making plays just disrupting their offense. It’s just what he does.”
Watson disrupted the offense while Timme dismantled LCSC’s defense with solid footwork and soft hands in the paint – two things that have made him one of the country’s most effective low-post scorers. The junior forward was assertive from the opening tip, scoring 19 points in his first 12 minutes on the floor and finishing with a game-high 25 points in 18 minutes. He was 9 of 14 from the field and didn’t miss a free throw, going 7 of 7 .
Timme also added eight rebounds, two assists and blocked two shots after rejecting three in the team’s first exhibition, last Sunday against Eastern Oregon.
“He delivered,” Michaelson said of Timme. “It’s what he is. He’s unbelievable in there. It’s as good a footwork as I’ve ever seen. He’s got the soft touch with both hands. He’s got an unbelievable ability to finish over or under guys. Obviously, his shot continues to improve, he spaces the floor better this year and really makes those free throws this year. He puts so much foul pressure on guys, he’s going to be at the line a lot so the way he delivers there is really important.”
The Bulldogs converted their first 17 free throws before Nolan Hickman missed with 11:01 left. They finished 21 of 26 from the line; the starters were 14 of 15.
Julian Strawther scored 13 points – all coming in the second half – and Chet Holmgren chipped in 12. Holmgren and Timme combined for 15 rebounds and five of the team’s six blocks. Hunter Sallis had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
LCSC’s Baker scored 21 points while Oreon Courtney had 12. Second-year freshman Sam Stockton, the son of Gonzaga and Utah Jazz star John Stockton, had two points, two rebounds and five assists in 18 minutes on the floor with his parents watching from their normal Kennel seats.
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