As one might expect for a team celebrating a group of players with the career accolades and production of Drew Timme, Anton Watson, Rasir Bolton and Malachi Smith, Gonzaga’s Senior Day festivities were rich with emotion and fanfare.
The Bulldogs embraced those four during a pregame ceremony at McCarthey Athletic Center then hardly broke a sweat while breezing past Chicago State for a 104-65 win in the final home game of the season.
The group of seniors recognized Wednesday featured Timme, one of the most decorated players in program history; Watson, a local product from Gonzaga Prep who continues to climb the top 10 of Gonzaga’s career steals list; and Bolton and Smith, accomplished guards who’ve bolstered the school’s strong transfer tradition.
“Just an overwhelmingly great group of people, man,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “In their own way, they’ve got their own personalities. Drew Timme’s personality is as big as anything and then you’ve got Rasir that’s very reserved, but are you kidding me? He rolls into our community and starts this awesome charity.
“Malachi’s got a great, positive, upbeat personality that this team really needed. Anton’s then kind of the unsung hero of this year and this season with just what he does for us.”
To no one’s surprise, the basketball portion of Wednesday was less dramatic than the events preceding it, and Gonzaga led by as many as 44 points before breaking the school record for most 100-point games in a season, hitting the century mark for the eighth time.
In order to make room for all four seniors, Few altered Gonzaga’s lineup for the first time this season, giving Smith a spot in the starting five on Wednesday.
Timme fed Watson underneath the basket for a layup on the game’s first possession and Gonzaga jumped out to a 13-8 lead with seniors scoring every point until the 13-minute, 10-second mark of the first half.
A group that’s combined for more than 6,400 career points combined for 56 points on Wednesday, with Timme scoring 17, Bolton reaching 15, Smith adding 14 and Watson chipping in 10 more. Hours after he was left off the 10-man All-WCC first team and five-man second team, Watson had seven assists, four steals, three rebounds and two blocked shots.
“That’s what we love to see, we know what we’re all capable of,” Watson said. “It’s Senior Night, so everyone was kind of sharing the ball and we were all having fun really. That’s a great way to end our last game in the Kennel together, so we were really having fun together.”
Wednesday’s season finale marked the final game at the Kennel for at least two of those four. Bolton’s college eligibility expires after the 2022-23 season and Timme confirmed to The Athletic on Saturday he doesn’t plan to return for a fifth season.
Watson told The Spokesman-Review Tuesday night on the fourth episode of his “Take 22 Podcast” he’s undecided on his future. Smith, who could also take advantage of a fifth college season, hasn’t committed one way or the other, indicating he’d make that decision after the season.
“I’m just focused on the season right now,” Smith said. “I just have a saying, be where my feet are, so my feet are here right now. Focus on that and that stuff will take care of itself.”
Four days removed from a high-stakes WCC finale against Saint Mary’s, and the ESPN College GameDay commotion that came with it, Few was pleased with his team’s composure and execution against Chicago State.
The Bulldogs made 37 of 61 from the field (60%), knocked down 13 of 26 (50%) from the 3-point line and played superb defense, especially for long stretches in the first half.
At one point, Gonzaga held Chicago State to just one field goal over a stretch that lasted 10 minutes, 16 seconds. The Bulldogs forced 17 turnovers and held the Cougars to 33% shooting in the first half.
“I think they did great, I thought we played good D for the first 15 or so minutes,” Few said. “Really, really good D. Then really had a phenomenal second half there on both sides of the ball.”
Most of Gonzaga’s production came from the four seniors, but seven total players scored in double figures, with Nolan Hickman adding 15 points on a career-high five 3-pointers, Julian Strawther scoring 11 and Ben Gregg tacking on 10.
Sophomore guard Hunter Sallis came off the bench to register two steals and Dominick Harris scored a season-high eight points, playing six minutes late in the second half.