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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Drew Timme’s consistency, Gonzaga’s scattered bench play and three other takeaways from the Phil Knight Legacy

Nov. 26, 2022 Updated Sun., Nov. 27, 2022 at 12:09 a.m.

PORTLAND – Gonzaga’s first 48 hours at the Phil Knight Legacy came with a mixed bag of emotions. It will take another 40 minutes to determine if the program’s second trip to the Portland-based tournament celebrating Nike co-founder Phil Knight is ultimately deemed a success or failure.

With a longer layover between games No. 2 and 3 in Portland, the Bulldogs should have more time to plot out ways to guarantee the first outcome and avoid the second.

At 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Gonzaga (4-2) and Xavier (4-2) will play for a consolation prize for which neither team necessarily came to Oregon, but one either would be happy to walk out of Veterans Memorial Coliseum with after both dropped second-round games Friday at the Moda Center.

Gonzaga came to the Rose City seeking perfection and hardware, but if the first six games of the 2022-23 season have taught them anything, expectations tend to change on a dime.

Sunday’s third-place game against the Big East Musketeers will give the Bulldogs another chance to show they can adapt, adjust and respond to adversity.

Gonzaga clobbered Portland State 102-78 in their opener on Thursday then got a form of that treatment from Purdue approximately 24 hours later, losing 84-66 to the Boilermakers at the Moda Center.

Below, we take a deeper look at what transpired at The Rose Quarter on Thursday and Friday with five Gonzaga takeaways.

Do-it-all Drew

Drew Timme’s fingerprints were all over Friday’s loss to Purdue and the All-American forward is finding a variety of ways to impact games that don’t involve his signature spin moves.

Look at two separate plays against the Boilermakers. On the first, Timme recovered into the paint, following Zach Edey there after the Purdue center received a long pass from the other side of the floor. Timme sprung off the floor to meet the 7-foot-4 junior, spiking the ball out of Edey’s hands before he could release his shot.

On the second play, Timme snagged a high pass from Rasir Bolton. In a singular motion, Timme collected the ball above his head and threw to a wide-open Malachi Smith in the corner. Smith buried the 3-pointer, cutting Gonzaga’s deficit to six points.

“He’s a good low-post passer, but when he drives a lot of times and spins and plays, he draws fouls, he scores, but he’s not a passer at that time,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.

“I thought he made two or three passes in the first half that were really exceptional.”

In five games this season, Timme has scored 22 points three times and 18 twice.

His 22 points against the Boilermakers came on 10-of-16 shooting and he had another 18 against Portland State on 7-of-8 shooting, giving him 40 points at the Phil Knight Legacy on 70% shooting clip.

He also has 15 rebounds, five assists and just two turnovers.

Defensive lapses

Gonzaga’s mistakes on the defensive end weren’t as visible through the first 10 minutes against Purdue, but they became glaring once the Boilermakers started to find their range from the 3-point line.

The defensive miscues, somewhat reminiscent of Gonzaga’s exhibition loss to Tennessee, allowed Purdue to shoot 17 of 30 from the field, and 6 of 11 from behind the arc, in the second half. The Boilermakers scored 51 points after halftime – the highest single-half scoring total allowed by Gonzaga this season and a number that matches the highest total from last season.

The Bulldogs struggled to string together consecutive stops on Edey, who scored a game-high 23 points, and used three players – Timme, Anton Watson and Ben Gregg – to try and counter the towering center who used his 290-pound frame to establish position down low and score on hook shots and dunks.

“I definitely think us being a little flat definitely impacted our defense, I would say. But even just little stuff,” Timme said. “I missed three tags and got dudes wide open shots. Just stupid things like that even I did. If we just fix those things, it’s a way closer game and we have more of a fighting chance.

“When we see the film we’re going to be like … ‘This is what we did?’ It starts with me, but if we just do the basics I feel like it’s a totally different game. We can’t give handouts like that, especially against a good team like that who executes all their sets.”

Bench ups and downs

The Bulldogs are still seeking consistent production from their bench – a four-man unit that normally includes senior guard Malachi Smith, sophomore guard Hunter Sallis, sophomore forward Ben Gregg and sophomore center Efton Reid.

With 41 points on Thursday, the bench accounted for 40% of Gonzaga’s overall production against Portland State.

Smith, with 24 points, and Sallis, with 12, accounted for 36 of the 41 points and half of the team’s 12 3-pointers.

“I just try to be ready whenever my number’s called, whatever I’m asked to do,” Smith said. “That’s why I prepare so hard to make sure whatever’s asked of me, I’m capable of doing it for the team. I’m all about winning, so obviously nights like this are great, but we’ve got bigger goals. I was glad I was able to contribute today.”

Bench contributions were nearly nonexistent against Purdue. Outside of a 2-minute stretch in the second half when Gregg made three consecutive shots and scored nine points, Gonzaga’s bench accounted for just five points and settled for 2 of 14 from the field.

Smith, who had two layups roll in and out of the basket, was 1 of 6 from the field with three points and two turnovers.

Sallis was 1 of 5 from the field with just two points.

Gregg usurps Reid

With his height and girth, Edey would’ve been a mismatch against anybody on Gonzaga’s roster. Reid, the Bulldogs’ 7-foot, 240-pound sophomore, is closest to the 7-4, 290-pound Purdue post when it comes to measurables, but the LSU transfer logged just 2 minutes in GU’s 18-point loss.

Instead, when subbing for Timme and Watson, the Zags elected to go with a smaller option more apt to stretch the floor on offense.

Gregg, a product of the Portland area, registered 9 minutes against Purdue, scoring nine points on 3-of-6 shooting before fouling out with 3:41 to play.

The late foul trouble partially overshadowed a breakthrough performance for the 6-9 forward, who drilled two late 3s, completed a three-point play and had a few solid defensive possessions guarding Edey.

“Getting some good things and then just foul, foul, foul, and they shoot six straight free throws and it kind of negates a lot of the good that was going on out there,” said Few, who praised the third-year sophomore for pushing through a bleak shooting stretch in the first half.

For now, Gregg appears to be Gonzaga’s first frontcourt option off the bench, locking up a role many thought would belong to Reid, who started in every game for LSU’s NCAA Tournament team last season. Reid played 33 minutes in GU’s first four games and Gregg just 13, but the former Clackamas High standout has played 14 minutes at the Phil Knight Legacy compared to just 4 minutes for Reid.

Gregg, who had two blocks and two rebounds against Purdue, totaled four points and four rebounds in Thursday’s game.

“For him to see it finally go through, I say this for all of us, we were proud of him,” Timme said. “He didn’t make them in the first half, but he still had the (nerve) to shoot them in the second half in a high-pressure moment. While we didn’t win, it’s something we can take away and count on him to do that stuff because that’s what he brings to the table.”

Turnover turnaround

While the Bulldogs work out the kinks elsewhere, Gonzaga’s turnover count in Portland continues to be a positive development.

The Zags averaged 17.5 turnovers through their first four games against North Florida, Michigan State, Texas and Kentucky, committing 18 against both Michigan State and Kentucky.

GU’s turned it over just 18 times in two games at the Phil Knight Legacy, committing 11 against Portland State and seven against Purdue.

Few was especially pleased with the ball security against the Vikings, who play an aggressive brand of on-ball defense. Not including the GU game, PSU has turned over its opponents 18.6 times per game.

The Bulldogs’ guard trio of Nolan Hickman, Sallis and Bolton had 18 assists and just one turnover in the PSU game.

“That’s huge,” Few said.

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