The game wasn’t 2 minutes old and Gonzaga’s Drew Timme had scored on two layups, a free throw and a dunk.
Then he dropped a midrange jumper and powered through Christian Bishop for another basket.
Texas changed defenders, trying Timmy Allen and Brock Cunningham, even guard Courtney Ramey at one point. Nothing came remotely close to slowing down Timme, who poured in 37 points to carry the top-ranked Zags to an impressive 86-74 win Saturday over No. 5 Texas in front of a boisterous audience of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The Longhorns didn’t have the size to deal with the 6-foot-10, 235-pound Timme and his collection of polished post moves. Bishop is 6-7, 220 pounds and didn’t have much luck against Timme in the Sweet 16 last season when he played for Creighton. Allen, a transfer from Utah, and Cunningham both are 6-6, 210.
The Zags made it look easy for 20 minutes and weathered a Texas comeback in the second half to take down the highest-ranked opponent to visit the McCarthey Athletic Center, which opened in 2004.
“It’s huge to have arguably the best player in college basketball and he played like it,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few, returning to the sideline from a three-game suspension following his guilty plea to DUI in mid-October.
Timme missed one shot in the opening half – a heat-check 3-pointer that rimmed off. He muscled through Allen for one basket and scored from the baseline on the next possession, shaking his head as he ran back downcourt.
“I always have fun when I play,” said Timme, who moved into third on the single-game McCarthey Athletic Center scoring list behind Adam Morrison (42) and Ronny Turiaf (40). “It’s a joy to play this game, so that’s just me.”
The Longhorns’ best defensive option might have been sitting on the bench – Vanderbilt transfer Dylan Disu, a 6-9 forward who is practicing but hasn’t fully recovered from a knee injury.
Timme’s dominance was reflected in Gonzaga’s 26-4 advantage in paint points in the first half. Meanwhile, six of the Longhorns’ first seven shots were 3-pointers.
The half ended with Rasir Bolton scooping up a loose ball and banking in a 45-footer to beat the buzzer and give Gonzaga 47-27 lead.
Texas (1-1) was more physical in the second half and closed the gap to 11 on a couple of occasions, but Gonzaga responded each time. Timme, meanwhile, kept scoring.
He made 15 of 19 shot attempts, 7 of 9 free throws and handed out three assists. He drew nine fouls against the Longhorns. No player on either team drew more than three.
“He’s our go-to guy,” said Bolton, who finished with 16 points and four 3-pointers, two that stymied Texas runs in the second half. “We feed him down there, so he’s going to get a lot of attention, a lot of looks. We have to be ready for when he kicks it out and knock down shots and soften the defense up so he can go back to work.”
Anton Watson added 10 points and five rebounds. Andrew Nembhard finished with nine points and eight assists.
“We were talking in the locker room, I think Andrew would have had 22 assists, but Drew used 19 dribbles on all his moves,” Few cracked.
Texas coach Chris Beard is quite familiar with Timme’s game.
“I’m very familiar with him. We recruited him, he’s from Texas,” Beard said. “The adjustment they made they were feeding the post from the middle of the floor a lot. We had some game-plan stuff from the side, but we just couldn’t hold him off from the middle.
“You can talk all you want about (former Boston Celtics great) Kevin McHale and pivots and pump-fakes and all this, but until you see the skill he has, it’s hard.”
The Zags (2-0) entertain Alcorn State on Monday.
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