FRISCO, Texas – As a native Texan and college basketball enthusiast, Drew Timme closely followed Rick Barnes for much of his 17-year tenure at the University of Texas.
Timme knows what “Barnes Ball” looks like and the senior forward felt it for the first time as an opposing player in No. 2 Gonzaga’s 99-80 exhibition loss to No. 11 Tennessee Friday night at the Comerica Center.
Barnes, now in year No. 8 at the helm in Knoxville, hasn’t changed his approach since leaving the Longhorns in 2015. Gonzaga struggled to match Tennessee’s physical play, especially in a second half that saw the Bulldogs outscored 49-26.
“They’re all a physical team,” Timme said. “Growing up, I watched coach Barnes coaching UT a lot and that’s one thing, good or bad, they’re going to be physical as all hell.
“That’s what he does. That was ingrained in them and you’ve got to give credit to them for playing so hard.”
There was another twist to Friday’s exhibition that allowed both players to ratchet up the physical style more than usual. Barnes and Gonzaga counterpart Mark Few, a longtime friend of the Tennessee coach, agreed to ignore traditional foul rules and players weren’t disqualified for running up their foul count.
Nobody went overboard, but Timme committed his fifth foul with 16 minutes, 43 seconds left in the second half.
Tennessee’s Jahmai Mashack also finished with five. Four other players committed four fouls apiece and 11 committed two or more. Tennessee committed 24 team fouls and Gonzaga 19.
“Rick and I decided we were just going to play and not worry about stuff like that,” Few said. “It was physical, too. Usually this time of year, they’re into calling a lot of hands and stuff,” Few said. “That was a very, very physical game and like I said, they were impressive. They were impressive from the jump.”
Timme, who scored 17 points on 8-of-18 shooting to go with three rebounds and two assists, suggested he took a different approach knowing he could stretch the limits of his aggression more than usual.
“You can’t take them home, so you might as well use them,” Timme said of the fouls.
Watson gets nod
The Bulldogs started a backcourt of Nolan Hickman, Rasir Bolton and Julian Strawther alongside a frontcourt featuring Timme and Anton Watson, contradicting a report earlier this week from CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein suggesting GU would use a small-ball lineup featuring three guards, Strawther as a small forward and Timme at the center spot.
Granted, the starting unit Gonzaga deployed Friday may not be the same one the Bulldogs use in their second exhibition on Wednesday or in the Nov. 7 season opener against North Florida.
“We just played an exhibition game and it’s Oct. 28, so we’re just going to do like we always do,” Few said. “Just day to day and see what we see and see what happens and go from there.”
Watson hasn’t started in an official game for the Zags since the 2020-21 season.
The Gonzaga Prep product made 17 starts as a sophomore before the Bulldogs switched to a guard-oriented lineup that featured Andrew Nembhard, Jalen Suggs, Joel Ayayi, Corey Kispert and Timme.
Mixed results for Smith, Reid
Chattanooga transfer Malachi Smith and LSU center Efton Reid came off the bench in Friday’s exhibition, logging their first minutes for Gonzaga against another opponent.
In 17 minutes, Smith scored five points on 2-of-4 shooting and hauled down four rebounds. In the second half, the 6-foot-4 guard muscled through a group of Tennessee defenders to grab an offensive board and convert a putback off the glass.
Reid, who faced Tennessee twice last season during SEC play, registered 14 minutes and went 3 for 3 from the field for eight points and five rebounds.
“They had some positive moments and they had some negative moments,” Few said. “So we’ll try to correct the negatives and accentuate the positives.”
“I think they were good in spurts,” Bolton said. “Like I said, kind of getting used to playing with everybody and Efton kind of being out there with Drew and Malachi maybe going from the three to the four, so kind of just learning new spots, kind of jelling and being able to compete.”
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