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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga-USF takeaways: Drew Timme’s turnaround and Chet Holmgren’s big night

Gonzaga’s Drew Timme donned Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott’s No. 4 jersey for postgame interviews a few weeks ago.

On Thursday, he faced the media wearing a San Francisco 49ers T-shirt and hat.

The standout forward endured a rough first half on offense and was posterized on a dunk by San Francisco Dons forward Patrick Tapé, but Timme responded with 18 second-half points and three assists in Gonzaga’s 78-62 victory.

Timme’s roller coaster evening continued when the Texas native and staunch Cowboys supporter chatted with media in 49ers garb, thanks to losing a bet to GU trainer/Niners fan Josh Therrien when the Cowboys fell to San Francisco in the NFL playoffs last Sunday.

“Unfortunately, it’s not the best night, man,” said Timme, still managing to smile. “I’m probably going to end up on SportsCenter later and then I have to come in here and have to wear some 49ers stuff. We got the win, though, that’s the only good thing for me.”

Timme was correct – Tapé’s monster dunk was No. 3 on ESPN’s nightly top 10 plays – but he did regain his form in the second half, even if he wasn’t feeling his postgame wardrobe.

“It’s really itchy and burning me a little bit just to have it on,” Timme said. “I’m a man of my word, so I have to do it.”

More on Timme’s turnaround in the second half, Chet Holmgren’s best effort of the season and the Dons’ inspired play in our Gonzaga-San Francisco takeaways.

Adventures in Timmeland

The scene played out time after time in the opening half. Timme would make a post move but his shot bounced off the rim, followed by a forceful, one-time clap in frustration.

Some of it was due to USF post Yauhen Massalski’s physical defense. Some were just uncharacteristic misfires by Timme.

“It wasn’t fun,” Timme said. “Those are shots I usually make. Just didn’t go in tonight. Honestly, the team handled it well. They kept cheering me on, being by my side.

“It’s not easy going through something like that, but when people have your back it makes you feel good. Ended up in the second half finally starting to make some stuff. Having the confidence of the guys really helped me through that because it wasn’t an easy situation. It was pretty frustrating.”

Timme stuck with it and connected on 8 of 12 field-goal attempts and 3 of 4 free throws in the second half. He finished with a team-high 23 points. Massalski fouled out with nine points and 10 rebounds.

“We got the ball into him more in the midpost and elbow area,” Zags coach Mark Few said. “He went to work there. I mean, you can’t keep on that same clip he’s been on where he’s making 13 out of 14 shots every game.

“Hey, that’s basketball. It happens to the best players in the world. I thought our other guys did a good job picking him up.”

Holmgren steps up

Holmgren, the 7-foot freshman, was a game-changer on offense and defense.

Holmgren made two 3-pointers – both on assists from Anton Watson – and scored 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 6 of 7 free throws. His play at the high post helped the Zags operate against San Francisco’s zone defense.

He swatted four shots and hauled down a team-leading nine boards, helping Gonzaga limit the Dons to 36% shooting and 62 points, 15 below their season average.

“He made all kinds of plays on offense and defense,” Few said.

Including physical ones against a physical opponent. Holmgren finished and boarded in traffic. The slender forward bounced back to his feet after getting knocked to the court numerous times.

“Chet scores in a lot of different ways, and it’s hard sometimes to direct the ball to him,” Few said. “I was proud of how he had to fight in there. He dug out some big-time rebounds. He’s doing a great job rim protecting.”

USF puts up a fight

San Francisco threw the first punch, taking a 15-4 lead, and several jabs and counters throughout, but it wasn’t enough against the top-ranked Zags.

The Dons dared Gonzaga’s bigs to shoot from the perimeter – Timme missed both of his 3-point attempts, but Holmgren and Watson combined to make three 3s – constantly changed defenses and battled to a near standoff on the glass (minus 1).

“This was a much closer game (for) the majority of it,” USF coach Todd Golden said. “I thought we played 34 really good minutes, but to beat the No. 1 team in the country on the road you have to play 40 really good minutes.”

The Dons led for 9 minutes and 48 seconds. The Zags had trailed by a combined 8:35 in 10 previous home games.

USF super senior guard Jamaree Bouyea was a handful off the bounce and from distance with three 3-pointers. GU made him work for his 25 points on 9 of 20 from the field. Guard Khalil Shabazz battled foul trouble and errant shooting but still scored 15 points. The 6-9, 240-pound Massalski and 6-10 Tapé provide interior presence.

“They’re very good,” Few said. “They’re experienced, they can shoot, they’re quick as all get out, they have good size, very good size, and they played us very physical and they have a nice plan.”