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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga rewind: Drew Timme breaks into top-10 of career NCAA scoring during Elite Eight exit

Gonzaga Bulldogs Drew Timme, left, Malachi Smith and Julian Strawther express their frustrations heading into a timeout against University of Connecticut on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.  (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

LAS VEGAS – Gonzaga coach Mark Few got eyes on Connecticut for the first time in November while his Bulldogs and the Huskies were competing in separate brackets at the Portland-based PK85 tournament.

Few’s initial impression of UConn wasn’t much different from the one with which he left T-Mobile Arena following an 84-52 loss to the Huskies on Saturday in the Elite Eight.

“They were great then and they were certainly great tonight,” Few said.

During a postgame press conference, Few was asked about the challenge UConn would present to its Final Four opponent, which was determined one night later when Miami outlasted Texas 88-81 in Louisville, Kentucky.

“I mean, listen, again, like I said, I hate to be a broken record here but I saw them in November, and I just thought they were such a complete team there,” Few said. “They’ve got great size. They have depth. Their bigs are different. So they bring different qualities.”

As Few and his coaching staff look forward, working to replace Drew Timme, Rasir Bolton and potentially two other members of the starting lineup, we’ll look back for the last time, reviewing the final game of Timme’s decorated Gonzaga career, Nolan Hickman’s offensive woes in the NCAA Tournament and the Bulldogs’ 3-point shooting slump on Saturday.

Mr. 301

Foul trouble and UConn’s frontcourt – primarily the duo of Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan – both made life challenging for Timme, who came up short of his seventh consecutive 20-point game in the NCAA Tournament.

Timme had averaged 27.8 points in his last six tournament games dating back to the 2021 national championship against Baylor. The senior forward was limited to 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting and 2 of 4 from the free -throw line against UConn.

He still managed to surpass 300 career points in the NCAA Tournament, finishing with 301 points in 13 games. Timme becomes the first player in Gonzaga history to score 300 points in the NCAA Tournament, more than doubling Adam Morrison’s previous school record of 149 points.

Timme, who would’ve added to that tally had the 2020 NCAA Tournament not been called off due to COVID-19, ranks No. 10 all-time with 301 career points at March Madness. The last player to crack 300 NCAA Tournament points was North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough, who scored 325 from 2006-09.

“I hope what probably should be readily apparent to everyone now is if something would have happened to Drew Timme earlier in the season, where would we have been?” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We leaned on him as hard as we’ve ever leaned on a player. And he just delivered time and time and time again.

“Took us all the way to the brink of a Final Four.”

Hickman reflects

Sophomore point guard Nolan Hickman was critical of his own play in the NCAA Tournament and gave an honest evaluation of his first season in the role held last year by second-round NBA draft pick and Indiana Pacer Andrew Nembhard.

“One word to describe my season, I think it was average,” Hickman said in Gonzaga’s locker room Saturday night. “There’s a lot more I need to do, I will do during the summer.”

Hickman averaged 7.7 points, 3.1 assists and 2.4 rebounds while starting in every game other than the home finale against Chicago State on Senior Night.

The Seattle native experienced highs during the regular season. He scored 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting while hitting a late go-ahead 3-pointer at Santa Clara, and he scored 29 points over a two-game stretch against Purdue and Xavier at the PK85.

Hickman struggled to find his shot in the NCAA Tournament, however, and scored just eight points over four games while going 3 of 19 from the field and 0 of 10 from the 3-point line.

After logging 59 minutes in Denver against Grand Canyon and TCU, Hickman’s minutes dwindled and the sophomore played just 46 combined minutes against UCLA and UConn.

Hickman didn’t single out one specific area where he feels he needs the most growth, instead suggesting he’ll use the offseason to improve his “all-around game.”

“This is my first season really being at this level, playing at the point guard position,” he said, “so I’ve got more things I need to prove and more things I need to do to improve my game.”

Untimely slump

Gonzaga’s 2022 NCAA Tournament run ended in the Sweet 16 against Arkansas on a night that saw the Bulldogs make 5 of 21 shots from the 3-point line.

Another untimely perimeter shooting slump contributed to the program’s latest second-weekend exit.

Gonzaga’s final 3-point shooting clip (2 of 20, 10%) was not just its lowest of the season but also the Bulldogs’ lowest in any game since 2012-13 when they were held to 1 of 11 in a West Coast Conference game against Portland.

“We have a lot of great shooters on the team, we just felt like there was a lid on the basket tonight,” sophomore forward Ben Gregg said. “Credit to them, they did a good job defensively, offensively, they made their shots and we missed ours, but they’re a great team.”

Prior to Saturday, Gonzaga’s lowest 3-point percentage came against Michigan State during a defensive tug-of-war on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier. The Bulldogs still made 22% of their outside shots in a narrow win over the Spartans.

Gonzaga’s worst 3-point shooting performance in more than a decade coincided with a solid showing from UConn, which made 11 of its 33 shots (33.3%) from beyond the arc.

“They ran great sets and they’re constantly moving, just sharp and they’re great players. So the shots they take, they make. Just shots for them fall, shots for us didn’t. That’s really all it was.”

Added Smith: “It sucks, you wish it wasn’t tonight that happens but it does. It happens and you can’t control it and I think that affected us defensively.”