Arrow-right Camera
Go to e-Edition Sign up for newsletters Customer service
Subscribe now
Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga’s defense records 15 steals, shows progress against North Florida in season opener

Nov. 7, 2022 Updated Mon., Nov. 7, 2022 at 9:46 p.m.

Gonzaga’s Drew Timme and his teammates were wearing a new set of uniforms in turquoise, red and white for their game against North Florida Monday, Nov. 7, 2022.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Gonzaga’s Drew Timme and his teammates were wearing a new set of uniforms in turquoise, red and white for their game against North Florida Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Gonzaga learned plenty about itself during a 19-point exhibition loss to Tennessee on Nov. 28. Possibly the most important takeaway? Defensive connectivity isn’t something the Bulldogs will acquire overnight, but rather build over the course of a long regular season.

It hasn’t quite been two weeks since the Tennessee game, but GU is already looking more adhesive on the defensive side of the floor.

That was particularly evident during an eight-minute, 38-second stretch on Monday where Gonzaga held North Florida scoreless, fueling the Bulldogs’ 104-63 season-opening victory at McCarthey Athletic Center.

During the 26-0 scoring run, the Ospreys went 0 of 11 from the field and committed eight turnovers. At halftime, North Florida was shooting just 8 of 29 from the field and of 15 from the 3-point line. The Ospreys improved slightly in the second half, but finished with a shooting percentage of 35% and turned the ball over 22 times.

The Bulldogs registered 15 steals, with the frontcourt pairing of Anton Watson (5) and Drew Timme (3) contributing eight of those. Last season, Gonzaga averaged 6.4 steals and never had more than 12 in a single game.

Without the rim protection and shot-altering skills of 7-footer Chet Holmgren, who tied GU’s single-season blocks record a year ago, the Bulldogs may need to rely more heavily on their on-ball defense in 2022-23.

“Look, offense is probably not going to be a problem that many times for us,” Timme said. “I think we’ve established we can put the ball in the basket. I think defense could be our Achilles’ heel eventually and that’s something we’re trying to attack head on and I think coach has done a good job of really drilling that in our heads and I think we’re doing a good job of responding.

“It’s something we’re taking good steps and something we’ve still got a ways to go.”

Against a Tennessee team that was significantly more skilled – and abundantly more physical – than the Warner Pacific group GU played in its second exhibition, and the North Florida squad the Zags played Monday, GU coach Mark Few’s team was often victim to missed assignments and blown defensive coverages.

The Volunteers shot 57% from the field and committed just 11 turnovers.

“That was our first game and I think you could obviously tell that because you could practice and take a script all you want, but you don’t learn that way,” Timme said. “When stuff hits the fan and everything, you kind of just have to improvise and that’s something you only figure out by playing together.”

Five days later, Gonzaga held Warner Pacific to a low shooting clip (38%) while forcing 18 turnovers.

Few suggested the team’s defensive improvement has come “in flashes,” but he’s still waiting on the Bulldogs to piece together two strong halves.

“That was a great stretch, probably as good a stretch as we’ve had all year,” Few said of the first-half spurt. “Then second half we had some letdowns again. We’re not going to be perfect, but I’d say by and large we got out and got our hands on a lot of balls and got out, especially in the first half, on those shooters that we were very leery of. I think that’s probably what I was most proud of.”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Follow along with the Zags

Subscribe to our Gonzaga Basketball newsletter to stay up with the latest news.