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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga fades in second half, falls to Tennessee 99-80 in exhibition contest

Oct. 28, 2022 Updated Fri., Oct. 28, 2022 at 11:04 p.m.

FRISCO, Texas – It was an exhibition game, it just didn’t look like it with players flexing after made baskets, players barking at refs, players barking at opposing players and coaches barking at players.

Then again, it looked very much like an exhibition game when Drew Timme stayed on the court after picking up his third foul 6 minutes into the first half and returned shortly thereafter and was hit with his fourth. He took full advantage of Gonzaga coach Mark Few and Tennessee counterpart Rick Barnes agreeing to a no-foul-out rule earlier Friday.

And it definitely looked like a regular-season game between two high-powered teams as they put on an entertaining offensive clinic in the first half with a combined 13 3-pointers and 104 points.

But following a rugged second half, the Zags could agree on one thing: Thank goodness it was an exhibition contest that doesn’t count on their record.

No. 11 Tennessee kept right on scoring in the second half and the second-ranked Zags couldn’t keep up as the Volunteers pulled away for a 99-80 win at Comerica Center. GU was outscored 49-26 in the closing half.

“We got a little exposed and were trying to run some switches we’re not ready to switch,” Few said. “Again, same stuff, we need to spend a considerable amount of time getting on the same page and just kind of toughen up. But yeah, we played tired there in the second half.”

Tired physically and mentally, senior guard Rasir Bolton added.

“I think they were in a lot better shape than us,” Bolton said. “They were just sharper on their cuts and they were knocking down a lot of 3s. That kind of blew the game open and we couldn’t get back from that.

“I think it’s more mentally (tired). Just fighting back, coming together as a team and making that stand, drawing a line together.”

The Volunteers generated open looks throughout, shooting 56.7% in the opening half and 57.6% in the closing 20 minutes. They connected on 13 3-pointers, handed out 28 assists and produced 41 bench points – 26 from reserve guard Tyreke Key in 27 minutes.

The Zags put on an offensive clinic in the opening half, shooting just under 60% while taking a 54-50 edge into halftime. They fell behind quickly in the second half and the margin grew wider with the Zags unable to get stops in the paint or behind the 3-point arc.

“We got away from our principles a little bit,” said Timme, who scored a team-high 17 points on 8-of-18 shooting. “Once the shots stopped falling we were like, crap, and they were hitting and we started missing coverages and gambling a little more. Film will be fun for sure.”

Gonzaga’s offense stalled in the second half – 10 of 35 from the field, including 2 of 15 from 3, and 4 of 13 at the free-throw line. Bolton, the only starter to make at least 50% of his shots, finished with three 3s and 12 points, all in the first half.

Anton Watson, in the starting lineup with Timme, Bolton, Julian Strawther and Nolan Hickman, had 10 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Strawther scored nine of his 12 points in the opening half. Hickman finished with nine points but was blanked in the second half.

“At one point we were 2 of 11 from free-throw line when they made their run, and we might even have had some front ends there,” Few said. “I think we left 13 points on the board right there, so that hurt and a couple 3s didn’t go down, but we didn’t have any thrust and just kind of ran out of gas. Hey, it’s good to see where we need to get to and we’re clearly not there yet, so that’s what these things are for.”

Much of the credit for that goes to a deep, physical and talented Tennessee squad that took it to the Zags in the second half. The Vols, picked third in the SEC preseason poll, played without All-conference guard Josiah-Jordan James.

“I wouldn’t be surprised at all,” said Timme, when asked about a possible rematch in March. “We just obviously have to clean up some stuff. But yeah, I definitely could us playing each other again just because they’re such a good team. We’ll get there. Slow and steady wins the race.”

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