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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

TV Take: Drew Timme is (obviously) in rare company among college basketball’s best

March 19, 2023 Updated Sun., March 19, 2023 at 9:57 p.m.

By Vince Grippi The Spokesman-Review

A long weekend of college hoops ended Sunday night with Gonzaga’s second-round matchup with the Big 12’s Texas Christian University. And it couldn’t have ended much better for those watching TBS in Spokane, as the Zags defeated the Horned Frogs 84-81 in Denver.

It wasn’t easy, nor was it easy, at times, to watch – or listen to Avery Johnson and Steve Smith supply analysis. Thankfully, Lisa Byington supplied a high-level play-by-play.

What they saw …

• He’s not on TV much anymore – if at all – but Captain Obvious would have been enamored with Johnson. As the game wore on, Johnson’s painfully obvious comments stood out more and more.

“The key tonight is can Gonzaga get enough stops,” Johnson said with 6 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first half and the Zags trailing by nine. Really? With GU’s nation-leading offense, isn’t that the key every night?

“This is the guy who has to get it going,” Johnson said after Strawther nailed his first 3-pointer about a minute later. Again, isn’t Strawther, their second-leading scorer, usually a key for the Zags? He wasn’t here, however, though his 10 points were accompanied by nine rebounds and excellent perimeter defense.

“This game is all about momentum, so we’ll see who has the momentum going into the half,” Johnson said with 100 seconds before intermission. The Bulldogs proceeded to cut TCU’s once 10-point lead to three. From there, the Horned Frogs stretched the lead to … five. Not sure how that translates into momentum. That the Zags outscored TCU by 12 after intermission, not at all.

“And that’s why in those situations you don’t want to shoot an air ball. You want the ball to hit the basket so you can have an opportunity to get an offensive rebound.” That statement came early in the second half when the Zags ran an inbounds play with 2.6 seconds on the shot clock. Timme hit the rim, Watson grabbed the offensive rebound and Nolan Hickman missed a 3-pointer.

“When you’re behind Timme in this situation, it’s ball game,” as Timme ducked in front of TCU’s Micah Peavy and scored an and-one with 3:47 left, giving the Zags a 71-64 lead.

“There’s no quit in TCU, they’re still playing,” Johnson said after Mike Miles Jr.’s steal with 14 seconds and ensuing free throws – the last of his 24 points – cut the lead to five.

OK, so he wasn’t alone. Not even in the courtside seats.

“Somebody had to win, somebody had to lose,” partner Smith said after the game. Obviously.

• As an aside, Mark Few might have taken a lesson from the Johnson school of commentary. At least his halftime comments to Andy Katz include this one: “If we make our free throws it’s probably an even game right now,” Few said after his team was 7 of 13 in the first 20 minutes and trailed 38-33. Gonzaga was 9 of 12 in the second half.

What we saw …

• With 8:22 remaining, TBS showed a graphic that hit home. It came right after Timme scored his 20th point – he finished with 28. On the left side of the screen, a list popped up. It showed seven players who had scored 20-plus points in nine NCAA Tournament games.

Timme’s name was at the bottom.

Above him? Bill Bradley, Richard Hamilton, Elvin Hayes, Danny Manning, Glen Rice and Corliss Williamson. Many of them have national titles. All are household names in college hoops homes.

Now Timme is too. With a chance to get a 10th next weekend against UCLA in Las Vegas.

• Damion Baugh’s nearly half-court 3-pointer as time expired was important – crucial, you might say – to some.

Gonzaga was favored by 4.5 heading into the game. Hunter Sallis’ two foul shots with seven-tenths of a second left gave the Zags a six-point lead. Baugh’s shot changed nothing. And, everything.

“Somebody’s going to be disappointed at the end,” Johnson said, chuckling. “But I’m not going to touch that one. I’m not touching that.”

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