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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga takeaways: Andrew Nembhard asserts himself with big night vs. BYU

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 14, 2022

Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard connects on a 3-pointer over BYU forward Caleb Lohner in the Zags’ 110-84 win Thursday.  (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard connects on a 3-pointer over BYU forward Caleb Lohner in the Zags’ 110-84 win Thursday. (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)

Second-ranked Gonzaga’s 110-84 rout over BYU added a timely bullet-point entry to its resumé with the No. 1 ranking possibly up for grabs when the new AP poll comes out Monday.

The Zags (13-2) cruised against a BYU team ranked No. 30 in the NET and No. 22 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency after Thursday’s blowout. No. 1 Baylor suffered its first loss, falling to No. 19 Texas Tech 65-62 on Tuesday. On Saturday, GU faces Santa Clara while Baylor meets Oklahoma State.

Regardless of where the Zags are ranked Monday morning, their array of offensive weapons was on full display against BYU. Senior point guard Andrew Nembhard helped orchestrate the 110-point night and his assertiveness has been key in GU’s last five wins.

More on Nembhard, coach Mark Few’s “proud papa” moment and his thoughts on scheduling the Cougars after they exit the West Coast Conference for the Big 12.

Points for the point guard

Nembhard acknowledges coaches have been on him to hunt for more shots for weeks. Few said he’s been on Nembhard to score more since the Florida transfer started suiting up in a Zags uniform.

Nembhard has certainly heard the message loud and clear of late. He’s averaging 11.2 points and 6.0 assists in the past five games, following a four-game stretch at 5.3 points and 4.8 assists.

“Yeah, 100%,” Nembhard said. “Coach Few has been on (me) the last couple weeks or so to be more assertive, score the ball, so I tried to come out with that mindset.”

Nembhard had four 3-pointers, 22 points and 12 assists against the Cougars.

“I’ve been asking Andrew to do that for two years now,” Few said. “It’s a daily conversation pretty much between me and B-Mike (assistant coach Brian Michaelson) always on him. Andrew is such an unbelievable passer that I think a lot of times he just views that as being the right basketball play.

“I think the way (the Cougars) were guarding ball screens, they were going to see if they could make him be a scorer and he’s more than capable of doing it, just like he was in the UCLA game (24 points) and a couple of other ones.”

Nembhard paces GU at 5.3 assists per game, tops in the WCC. His recent scoring surge has boosted his scoring average to 9.1.

“I felt I could do both (score and pass),” Nembhard said. “Guys were moving and we were clicking so well, I was getting easy assists.”

Nembhard and Drew Timme teamed up for an improv comedy session near the end of a postgame interview. Timme referred to the point guard as “Andy” while answering a question.

“You gotta stop calling me Andy,” Nemhbard said with a smile. “I don’t know who Andy is.”

Timme, showing off his recollection of a song from the movie “Toy Story,” cracked, “He’s got a friend in me, man.”

Proud dad

Few’s son, Joe, a freshman walk-on, cracked the scoring column for the first time this season when he hit a free throw in the closing seconds. Some of the loudest ovations of the season have come when Few checks into games.

“I didn’t realize it the first couple games, I guess until somebody brought it to my attention,” the coach said. “It was nice and fun, and he made it a little more dramatic than he needed to by missing the first one. That was a good, proud papa moment so that’ll be fun to talk about when we get home.”

Gonzaga’s bench and the Kennel Club erupted when Few connected on his second free throw.

“I was sweating for him, man,” Timme said. “He started smiling too much and I was like, ‘Oh, please make one.’ It was so great to see him score. He’s had a lot of pressure on him with all the fans yelling at him to get in and cheering on him. I don’t think I could have made both of those with how electric that place got out of nowhere.”

GU-BYU, to be continued?

BYU is joining the Big 12 for the 2023-24 season, but Few is optimistic the series won’t end after next season.

“It’s been great,” Few said. “They’re a great, worthy opponent. Obviously, the atmospheres are terrific whether they’re in the Kennel or in the Marriott Center. I’m quite certain we’ll have something going in the future.”

The Zags have won 22 of 29 against the Cougars, including 10 of the past 11. BYU won three straight on GU’s home court from 2015-17 and knocked off No. 2 Gonzaga 91-78 in 2020.

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