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Sports >  NCAA basketball

Gonzaga rewind: Longhorns were good, Zags have plenty to work on ahead of Kentucky

Nov. 17, 2022 Updated Thu., Nov. 17, 2022 at 5:52 p.m.

Texas Longhorns guard Marcus Carr (5) snags a loose ball against Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Julian Strawther (0) during the second half of a college basketball game on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, in the Moody Center in Austin, TX. Texas won the game 93-74.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Texas Longhorns guard Marcus Carr (5) snags a loose ball against Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Julian Strawther (0) during the second half of a college basketball game on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, in the Moody Center in Austin, TX. Texas won the game 93-74. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

AUSTIN, Texas – No. 11 Texas is in the running for No. 1 in terms of hype videos and pregame production and presentation, all assisted by the dazzling new Moody Center.

And by Longhorns super fan Matthew McConaughey, who narrated one of at least three hype videos leading up to tip off Wednesday against No. 2 Gonzaga. One video was dedicated to team culture, a priority in coach Chris Beard’s second season at the helm. Player introductions were accompanied by on-court fireworks.

If the Longhorns continue to execute and shoot from distance the way they did in a 93-74 romp over the Zags, they’ll be in the mix for a No. 1 seed come March.

“They’re old, their guards (Tyrese Hunter and Marcus Carr) are terrific, they can both handle it, it’s always great when you have two point guards like that,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “They can shoot, they’re athletic enough to switch on ball screens. They’re the real deal.”

Highlights were scarce for the Zags, who again appeared overmatched at times – though the first example didn’t count in an exhibition loss to Tennessee. Gonzaga didn’t match Michigan State’s physical play for most of the first half before turning it around with a gritty second-half comeback.

Gonzaga doesn’t have time to sulk with No. 4 Kentucky coming up Sunday at the Arena, but we’ll take a few minutes to address what went wrong against Texas and Drew Timme’s latest return to his home state in our latest Gonzaga rewind.

Miscues at both ends of court

Gonzaga had two offensive stats that told the tale: 10 assists and 20 turnovers. Against Michigan State, GU had eight assists and 18 turnovers. They were torched in transition in both games by a combined 26-5, largely the product of turnovers.

Rasir Bolton was turnover free , but the other four starters accounted for 15 .

“We have to get better play out of everybody going forward,” Few said. “I don’t know that I’d say just guards. Collectively, we’ve got to take better care of the ball. Looking at the stat sheet, it’s a lot of our veterans with a lot of the turnovers. It starts with that. We can’t function on offense when we turn the ball over like that.”

The Zags could be shorthanded at guard Sunday. Point guard Nolan Hickman suffered an ankle injury late in the second half. Few acknowledged Hickman is “pretty banged up.” If Hickman doesn’t play, Bolton would likely handle the point with Hunter Sallis and Malachi Smith as options.

Hickman started quickly for the second consecutive game. He hit a pair of 3-pointers but tailed off after that.

“He’s just got to be solid,” Few said. “When he doesn’t turn the ball over, we seem to be in a lot better position. The last two games, he shot the ball well and I thought he did some good things out there, but again, we can’t have two assists and four turnovers. Everybody has to have a positive assist-to-turnover ratio.”

Likewise, Gonzaga’s defensive gaffes involved the backcourt and bigs. The guard trio of Hunter, Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice combined for 10 3-pointers, 11 free throws, 53 points, 11 assists and three steals. The Longhorns don’t rely on the frontcourt as much for scoring, but it still contributed, led by Dylan Disu’s two 3s and 12 points.

Chet Holmgren’s rim protection and 3-point accuracy and Andrew Nembhard’s ball-screen wizardry were always going to extremely difficult to replace, but their absence was particularly noticeable against the Longhorns.

Few noted, “personnel-wise, it was tough for us to guard some of their guards, quite frankly.” He added that breakdowns occurred inside and outside, and the combination of both when Texas penetrated and dished to open perimeter shooters.

“You have to adjust when somebody gets hot,” Few said. “Our guys did a very poor job of adjusting, but again they can spread you out really well and when they’re running ball-screen action, I don’t expect you guys to understand it, but you do have to pull in or they’re going to throw it up to the rim and dunk it every time.

“Much like what we’ve done in the past, their guards are gifted enough to spread it around and that’s how they get the open 3s.”

That’s a challenge GU will face numerous times against the standout guard lines of Kentucky, Baylor, Alabama, Saint Mary’s and potential foes at the PK85 next week in Portland.

Timme’s time in Texas

Timme’s family rounded up 19 tickets for the senior forward’s return to Texas. Parents Matt and Megan, brother Walker and sister Kendall sat in the first row just behind Gonzaga’s bench.

The Dallas native didn’t put on quite the show he was hoping for in front of family and 36 NBA scouts, but he was easily the team’s most productive and efficient player. Still, it was a bit of mixed bag, particularly early on when he had two baskets, two airballs, one assist and one turnover.

He made his last five shot attempts, finished 7 of 10, hit 4 of 5 free throws and led GU with 18 points and nine rebounds. He also had five turnovers as the Longhorns frequently sent double-teams his way after he scored 37 points in last year’s win in Spokane.

“Timme is a dynamic player, 18 and nine, we’re OK with that,” Beard said. “That’s how good he is. I thought we made him turn it over a few times, made it hard on him.”

Timme supplied more than half of Gonzaga’s 28 paint points.

“I thought he found his shots and all that,” Few said. “They do a good job of doubling the ball when they can. We exploited that a couple times. I think he’d even tell you he got the shots he wanted.

“He’s been seeing that coverage for quite a while. They’re athletic, long and have a lot of guys they can send at him.”

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