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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga rewind: Gonzaga guards, Braden Huff shine in 111-71 rout of Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Gonzaga guard Nolan Hickman reacts after hitting a 3-pointer against Arkansas-Pine Bluff during the first half Tuesday at McCarthey Athletic Center.  (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Mark Few couldn’t have been much happier with the numbers from his backcourt on Tuesday.

Not necessarily points, assists and rebounds, either.

Nolan Hickman, Ryan Nembhard and Dusty Stromer were all kept under 30 minutes for the first time since a Nov. 14 game against Eastern Oregon, each getting long breathers throughout a 111-71 nonconference blowout that remained competitive for all of 1-2 minutes.

In five games since, Hickman had logged an average of 36.6 minutes per game and gave the Bulldogs 40 minutes against UCLA at the Maui Invitational. Nembhard played the full 40 against UCLA and averaged 37.4 minutes during that stretch, and Stromer was averaging 32.8 minutes. Similar to his backcourt mates, the freshman didn’t come off the floor during a tense 69-65 win over the Bruins.

The other numbers from Tuesday’s box score looked pretty good, too.

Hickman, Nembhard and Stromer combined to deliver 15 assists while committing only three turnovers between them, regularly feeding Gonzaga’s post players, who had an overwhelming advantage down low and racked up a 60-8 advantage in paint points.

“Those are good numbers,” Few said. “That’s moving it, sharing it, playing the right way.”

The Bulldogs’ 28 assists were the second most by any team under Few, who coached his 832nd career game on Tuesday.

“It’s great, when you’ve got Nolan and Ryan kind of leading the ship it makes our job easy,” redshirt freshman forward Braden Huff said. “We duck and we play hard, they’ll find us, so I think knowing you’re going to be rewarded makes our job that much more rewarding. It’s easy playing with them and it’s a fun group to play with.”

Huff stays hot

It was another efficient, productive night from Huff, the 6-foot-10 forward from Chicago who’s given the Zags instant offense off the bench through the first eight games.

Huff led Gonzaga in scoring with 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the floor despite playing the fewest minutes among the team’s rotational minutes. Through GU’s 7-1 start, Huff is the Bulldogs’ fifth-leading scorer at 12.5 points per game, but he’s averaging 15.6 minutes – a fraction of what starters Anton Watson (14.8 ppg, 28.3 mpg), Ike (13.9 ppg, 22.0 mpg), Hickman (13.0 ppg, 33.5 mpg) and Nembhard (12.5 ppg, 34.3 mpg) are averaging.

“I love it, they’ve been making it easier, they’ve been getting out to quick starts – the starters,” Huff said. “From not playing last year to just being able to be on the court, I think there’s a lot of joy there. Yeah, however I can impact the game and impact winning is great and I’m really enjoying it.”

Huff’s leading the Zags in field-goal percentage (65.1) and 3-point percentage (52.6%) while averaging a solid 4.8 rebounds per game.

Few says some of what Huff’s doing for Gonzaga isn’t reflected on the stat sheet.

“He just scores 19 … I don’t know, it didn’t seem like he scored 19, to be honest,” Few said. “He’s got a knack. He’s got soft hands like some of the great bigs we’ve had over the years. A little bit like Drew (Timme), his ball just goes in and that’s a nice skill to have. He’s doing a nice job. He doesn’t get any stats for this, but he keeps balls alive on the offensive board and we’re able to convert those and we keep growing him defensively.”

Speaking of Timme …

Toward the end of Tuesday’s postgame news conference, GU’s coach was alerted that Timme had posted season-high numbers in the G League, scoring 30 points to go with 10 rebounds and six assists in a 123-96 loss for his Wisconsin Herd (Milwaukee Bucks) to the Windy City Bulls (Chicago Bulls).

Few was adamant that Timme, a three-time college All-American who left Gonzaga as the program’s all-time scoring leader, deserves an NBA roster spot.

“That’s awesome,” Few said upon learning of Timme’s double-double on Tuesday.

“Listen, I think he’s an NBA player, I think they’ll eventually figure it out,” he added. “He’s just too good of a basketball player and he’s too good of a guy, too good of a teammate to not have on a roster. I tell everybody that and especially in the summers I’m around a lot of those NBA people. So yeah, he’s going to be fine.

“He’s got some big-time belief in himself. He’ll figure it out and somebody at that next level will figure it out because he’s a winner.”

Timme’s numbers on Tuesday came on 11-of-12 shooting from the field, including 2 of 2 from the 3-point line. He also had two blocks and one steal in 37 minutes.

The Texas native has started in four of eight games for the Herd, averaging 11.6 points and 5.8 rebounds in 22.6 minutes per game.