Vegas oddsmakers had Gonzaga winning by seven over UCLA.
But when the final horn sounded in Las Vegas, the top-ranked Bulldogs (6-0) coasted to a 83-63 victory over the second-ranked Bruins (5-1) on Tuesday in the Good Sam Empire Classic in T-Mobile Arena.
It felt like the Zags were leading by at least 20 the entirety of the game as Andrew Nembhard scored 24 points with six assists. He led an offensive onslaught in the first 10 minutes of the game that carried through the final 30. He played all 40 minutes.
But he was supported by three other double-digit scorers as Drew Timme had 18, Chet Holmgren had 15 and Julian Strawther had 10.
Johnny Juzang was held to 11 points, almost nine points less than his nearly 20 points a game.
The Bruins were led by Jaime Jaquez Jr. who had 19 points, shooting 7 for 22 from the floor. Tyger Campbell added 11.
The defense was aided by four Holmgren blocks.
The Bulldogs stay in Vegas for a matchup against No. 5 Duke (6-0) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.
15:47 - GU 10, UCLA 5: Nembhard and Juzang trade 3’s early, but Nembhard and the Zags with an early lead. A hectic pace to the game so far, but the crowd is urging both teams to push. Holmgren adds another four points and a perfect 2 for 2 from the floor.
15:10 - GU 16, UCLA 6: A quick six points in 30 seconds sees UCLA’s Mick Cronin use his first timeout. Timme with an and-one opportunity followed by a Bolton 3 extends the Bulldog lead. Zags exuding confidence.
12:07 - GU 24, UCLA 8: Cronin didn’t wait for the under-12 timeout before calling another of his own. The Bulldogs have put on a scoring clinic here in Las Vegas. Nembhard is running this offense like a well-oiled machine. He has seven points and two assists.
8:37 - GU 33, UCLA 10: Nembhard is continuing his personal onslaught. He is up to 11 points and hasn’t missed a shot. Gonzaga is playing on another planet right now.
7:17 - GU 33, UCLA 12: Another large storyline from this game is the lack of scoring from Juzang. He has five points on 2 for 5 shooting. Bulldogs not giving him (or any Bruin for that matter) much room to operate. The defensive rotations have been sound for the Zags.
5:30 - GU 33, UCLA 14: The Bulldogs haven’t scored in over three minutes, so Few calls a timeout. The ensuing possession ends in a Holmgren turnover. GU has to be careful not to allowed the Bruins to sneak back in toward the end of the half.
3:11 - GU 36, UCLA 16: Holmgren stopped the offensive bleeding with a 3-pointer that was wide open. At the under-4 media timeout, the Zags continue to stifle the Bruins. Juzang and Campbell shooting a combined 3 for 15. That is the major difference in the game.
It was about as different of a first half as many would have predicted. The Bulldogs have dominated about every statistical category.
They are shooting better from the floor, more rebounds, more assists, more blocks and the most import stat, they lead 45-25.
UCLA is causing the Zags to turn the ball over more than they would like to (8 times, compared to UCLA’s 5).
Nembhard leads all scorers with 13 points, missing only one shot in the process.
Expect a similar gameplan from GU in the second half. They have led Nembhard run the show and on defensive, they are keeping Juzang and Jaquez Jr. quiet (seven points apiece).
15:12 - GU 54, UCLA 33: A silly over the back foul on Holmgren sends the game into the first media timeout of the half. Two minutes prior, Holmgren swatted a shot, took the ball down the court, went behind his back on the dribble and finished it with a two-handed slam. Both teams slow to score so far in the half.
11:50 - GU 59, UCLA 40: The Bruins are trying to chip away at the Bulldog lead, but GU is keeping them at arms length. Credit Strawther who knocked down a huge 3 with the shot clock running down. Whenever UCLA starts to make a run, GU has a response.
7:11 - GU 71, UCLA 51: Four Bulldogs are in double figures: Nembhard (20), Timme (16), Holmgren (11) and Strawther (10). UCLA is in the double bonus as Watson and Bolton both have four fouls. Zags still scoring enough to stay in front of the pesky Bruins.
No changes to the starting lineup. Nembhard, Bolton, Strawther, Timme and Holmgren. Only Nembhard and Timme played UCLA a season ago.
Who could forget the instant classic last April? Johnny Juzang ties the game in overtime. Jalen Suggs hits the shot at the buzzer, before raising his fist atop the scorers table.
Not only the best moment in Gonzaga’s history, but one of the best in all of college basketball.
It’s time for round two.
The No. 1 Bulldogs face off with No. 2 UCLA tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Both teams undefeated, and both teams with eyes set on cutting down the nets in Indianapolis.
Gonzaga is 4-2 all-time against UCLA, with three of those games coming in the NCAA Tournament. The first of those ended with GU great Adam Morrison on the floor in tears – the most recent with Morrison calling the game on radio, elated by the Bulldogs’ win.
GU also beat UCLA 74-62 in the Sweet 16 of the 2014-15 NCAA Tournament. Here is a list of the two teams’ meetings:
• April 3, 2021: GU 93, UCLA 90 (OT)
• Dec. 12, 2015: UCLA 71, GU 66
• March 27, 2015: GU 74, UCLA 62
• Dec. 13, 2014: GU 87, UCLA 74
• March 23, 2006: UCLA 73, GU 71
• Dec. 11, 1999: GU 59, UCLA 43
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