Chet Holmgren erupts in second half as No. 2 Gonzaga coasts past San Diego 92-62
Feb. 3, 2022 Updated Thu., Feb. 3, 2022 at 10:12 p.m.
Gonzaga Bulldogs center Chet Holmgren (34) dunks the ball against the San Diego Toreros during the first half of a college basketball game on Thursday, Feb 3, 2022, at Jenny Craig Pavilion in San Diego, Calif. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)Buy a print of this photo
SAN DIEGO – Officially, the time stamp on Chet Holmgren’s latest eruption was marked at 1 minute, 41 seconds. If you changed channels at the wrong time, it would’ve have been easy to miss.
The San Diego Toreros may have wished they had that option late in the second half Thursday night.
Holmgren, in what may have been his most impressive individual stretch this season, stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, four rebounds and one blocked shot in approximately 100 seconds to help second-ranked Gonzaga bury San Diego 92-62 in front of 5,433 fans at Jenny Craig Pavilion.
In just his second road game as a college basketball player, Holmgren brushed off the occasional “overrated” chant to score a season-high 23 points, adding 12 rebounds and four blocked shots in 29 minutes. The freshman was efficient per usual, making 9 of 12 shots from the field while going 3 of 5 from behind the 3-point arc.
Asked later if he felt the stretch was his best this season, Gonzaga’s talented but humble 7-footer shrugged, replying, “No idea. It definitely was a very impactful stretch, kind of put the game out of distance for the other team. It was a definitely a great stretch, but don’t know. Couldn’t tell you.”
While Gonzaga fans continue to enjoy watching Holmgren play, opponents in the West Coast Conference can take some enjoyment in knowing it should be over in a few months’ time. Thursday’s performance, which came one day after Holmgren was named one of 10 finalists for the Karl Malone Award, reaffirmed why NBA scouts and general managers thought highly of Gonzaga’s versatile freshman even before he put on a Bulldogs uniform.
Whether they were watching in real time or skimming through the highlights later, Holmgren’s two-minute burst in the second half offered another sample for teams who’ll consider adding him to an NBA roster this summer.
First, Holmgren cashed in a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to give Gonzaga a 67-49 lead with 8:47 to play. Forty seconds later, another trailing 3-pointer. On the ensuing San Diego possession, Holmgren stuffed 6-foot-10 Terrell Brown at the rim, collecting the rebound to set up his next offensive highlight.
With a head of steam, Holmgren dribbled from one coast to the other, hanging in the air as he drew contact from Brown and watched a layup fall over the San Diego center. Holmgren then pulled down the defensive rebound on Wayne McKinney III’s missed 3-pointer, ran down in transition and swished another long ball from the top of the arc to complete a run that saw him outscore the Toreros 11-2.
The stretch also allowed the Zags to turn a commanding 67-49 lead into a full-on runaway at 75-50.
Holmgren said USD’s switch to a zone defense opened up a few of the opportunities he had, especially when the Zags were in transition. A small nudge from teammate Rasir Bolton also prompted him to take a more aggressive approach.
“I feel like it kind of comes to you in different situations reading the game. They were going zone, so their big guy was getting back to the paint,” Holmgren said. “I knew the trail would be there if we were pushing hard in transition. They weren’t able to set up the zone, so I was just trailing hard looking for those shots. I have great teammates, Ra (Bolton) was telling me the whole game, basically do you and make plays. So he was inspiring confidence in me, then my teammates were finding me.”
Gonzaga coach Mark Few said while Holmgren has the capacity to break off similar runs, his presence as a defensive rim protector fueled the Bulldogs all night in a game that saw the Toreros shoot just 22 of 62 (35%) from the field.
“That’s kind of Chet in a nutshell,” Few said. “He can do those things, then there will be other times when you don’t really notice him all that much. But he’s always a presence around the rim on defense. Even today, the big fella went at him a couple times early and had some success. He does a good job gauging what’s going on, adjusting his defense, and I think after that, they really had problems scoring on him.”
Holmgren’s late spurt may have stolen the headlines, but other Zags got involved on a night that saw GU score at least 90 points for the fifth time in seven WCC games. Andrew Nembhard led five other players who scored in double figures with 14 points to go with seven assists. Drew Timme had 13 points and eight rebounds; Julian Strawther had 11 points and eight rebounds; Anton Watson scored 11 points and Bolton had 10.
Gonzaga (18-2, 7-0) stays on the road for Saturday’s 7 p.m. game against BYU (17-7, 5-4) at the Marriott Center. The Cougars have lost three consecutive WCC games, including a 73-59 defeat against San Francisco on Thursday. Saturday’s game is set to air on ESPN.
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