AUSTIN, Texas – Late in the first half, Gonzaga was shooting 53% from the field, had knocked down 5 of 7 3-pointers and was winning the rebounding battle.
And trailed by seven?
That deficit underscored the numerous defensive lapses and careless turnovers that piled up for the second-ranked Zags and didn’t seem to stop until the final buzzer sounded.
No. 11 Texas made Gonzaga pay for every late close-out and ill-advised pass for a 93-74 nonconference victory in front of an overflow crowd of 11,313 inside the new Moody Center, avenging an 86-74 loss in Spokane just over a year ago.
Gonzaga (2-1) endured its worst loss since an 84-61 setback to Arizona in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
The Zags’ offensive numbers looked fine on the stat sheet until the number 20 appeared in the turnover column. Those miscues were converted into 27 points by the Longhorns (3-0).
“They forced us into so many turnovers,” Zags coach Mark Few said. “We usually pride ourselves in taking care of the ball. We actually shot it decent, rebounded relatively decent, just way too many turnovers. Their pressure was a lot of it, and some of it was us.”
The other part of the equation leading to the blowout loss: Gonzaga, much like Texas in last year’s game, had no defensive answers.
The Zags failed to mount anything resembling a comeback in the second half as Texas steadily increased its lead to as many as 23 points.
“They hit a lot of deep 3s,” Few said. “We were trying to shore up those guards’ penetration. They had not shot the ball like that coming in so we were kind of concerned about guard penetration.
“We tried to adjust and get back out but at that point some of them, especially Tyrese (Hunter) was really feeling it. And they hit a lot of tough shots, too.”
Gonzaga took the noise out of the crowd early with a fast start. Nolan Hickman hit two 3-pointers and Drew Timme added two baskets from close range. The Zags led 10-3, but opened the door for a Texas comeback with sloppy execution at both ends of the court.
Hunter and backcourt mates Marcus Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice combined for five 3-pointers and 29 first-half points as the Longhorns waved goodbye to their perimeter shooting slump from the first two games (7 of 36, 19.4%). Texas made seven 3s by halftime.
“Some of you guys panic, man,” Texas coach Chris Beard said early in his postgame media session. “It’s the third game of the year. We have good shooters. The best shooters that have ever played the game miss half their shots.”
Hunter, the Iowa State transfer who had Gonzaga in his final six before picking Texas, finished with 26 points and five 3-pointers. Carr added 16 points, four 3s and seven assists. Rice chipped in 11 points.
“We tried to go zone,” Few said. “We tried to do what we can. I think it was just personnel-wise, it was tough for us to guard some of their guards, quite frankly.”
Two plays were symbolic of Gonzaga’s repeated defensive breakdowns. Few called a timeout late in the half after watching his team give up an offensive board and a Brock Cunningham field goal. GU’s next possession ended with Cunningham intercepting Hickman’s pass out front and converting a layup.
Early in the second half, the Longhorns kept finding open perimeter looks, including forward Dylan Disu draining a 3-pointer with the nearest defender about 10 feet away. At that point, Texas was 11 of 22 from distance before it cooled off to finish 13 of 33.
Gonzaga also connected from behind the arc (9 of 19) and hit 50% of its attempts inside the arc. Texas, which finished at 51.5% from the field, attempted 15 more shots than the Zags, thanks to committing 10 turnovers to GU’s 20.
“I thought our ball pressure took them out of some stuff,” Beard said. “We were dialed in defensively.”
The 6-foot-9 Disu, who didn’t play in last year’s game due to a knee injury, was a difference maker on both ends. He hit a pair of 3s, scored 12 points and helped the Longhorns contain Timme, who poured in a career-best 37 points against Texas last November.
Timme was efficient with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, but he had five turnovers. Junior forward Julian Strawther added 13 points, but committed four turnovers. Hickman exited late in the second half with an ankle injury that Few said “didn’t look good.”
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.
Follow along with the Zags
Subscribe to our Gonzaga Basketball newsletter to stay up with the latest news.