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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

‘It’s nice to get recognized’: Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard named West Coast Conference Tournament MVP; fellow Zags Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren also honored

UPDATED: Tue., March 8, 2022

Andrew Nembhard celebrates with teammates Tuesday after Gonzaga defeated Saint Mary’s in the WCC Tournament championship in Las Vegas.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Andrew Nembhard celebrates with teammates Tuesday after Gonzaga defeated Saint Mary’s in the WCC Tournament championship in Las Vegas. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

LAS VEGAS – Andrew Nembhard sparked Gonzaga early, then put the Bulldogs on his shoulders late.

The senior guard took home tournament MVP honors after spearheading GU’s 82-69 defeat of Saint Mary’s on Tuesday night in the West Coast Conference Tournament final at Orleans Arena.

“I feel like I’m one of those guys who’s a little underrated,” Nembhard said after the game while clutching his new trophy. “So, it’s nice to get recognized every so often.”

Nembhard finished with 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field and doled out seven assists as the No. 1 Bulldogs (26-3) avenged a recent regular-season loss to the 17th-ranked Gaels (25-7).

He was at his best down the stretch, knocking down his final five field-goal attempts.

“Andrew really took over in the second half and played how you want your seniors to play,” Zags coach Mark Few told the crowd during a postgame interview from the stage at midcourt.

The 6-foot-5 point guard from Ontario drilled back-to-back 3-pointers and sliced into the lane for a diving layup, scoring eight points during a 1:30 span with less than 5 minutes to play. His personal scoring spree helped Gonzaga maintain a double-digit lead.

“I felt like (Gaels defenders) were pressing on everyone else, so I had to be more assertive,” Nembhard said. “That’s what I started to do.”

Nembhard scored all seven of his first-half points in the game’s first 6 minutes to pull the Bulldogs out of an early shooting slump.

In two games at the tourney, Nembhard totaled 36 points (16 of 28 from the field) and 15 assists against just two turnovers.

“It’s great to have so many talented guys around me,” he said.

Two of them, posts Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren, joined him on the all-tournament team.

Timme, a senior and the WCC’s reigning player of the year, scored eight of his 10 points and didn’t miss a shot in the second half. He registered a team-high 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting in the Bulldogs’ 81-71 semifinal win Monday over San Francisco. Timme added a combined eight rebounds and six assists in the tourney.

Holmgren, the 7-foot freshman sensation, had a quiet first half against the Gaels and was in foul trouble throughout the second, but he still managed eight points (3 of 9 from the floor), eight rebounds and two steals. A night earlier, Holmgren dazzled with 17 points on 70% from the field, eight boards, six blocks and three steals.

Veteran Gaels point guard Tommy Kuhse and super-scoring USF guard Khalil Shabazz rounded out the all-tourney team.

Kuhse scored 27 points on Monday in a victory over Santa Clara and produced 15 points in the loss to the Zags. He contributed 12 rebounds and six assists across the two games.

Shabazz led all scorers at the tournament with 49 points. He racked up 27 on 11-of-18 shooting against the Bulldogs and had 22 on Saturday in the Dons’ win over BYU.

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