Holmgren vs. CMU

Holmgren finished out Monday with a game-high 19 points, and went 2-for-4 from beyond the arc. 

Gonzaga men’s basketball (5-0) got its tour in Las Vegas, Nevada, off to a strong start Monday. A 107-54 victory over the Central Michigan University Chippewas (1-3) marked the Zags largest margin of victory this season.

In a score by committee effort in which 12 different Zags put up points, it was freshman center Chet Holmgren who led the game with 19 points. Holmgren was 7-for-9 shooting, including two three-pointers, and contributed three blocks and five rebounds.

“One of the beautiful things about our team is that anybody can step up,” Holmgren said. “We’re real deep, got a lot of great players on this team so it’s not going to be one person’s night every single night, and we feed off that and look to each other to get each other going and that works out really well.”

GU jumped out to an 11 point lead eight minutes into the game after junior forward Anton Watson broke through with an and-one score. CMU came out the gate letting the three-ball fly, but it wasn’t until graduate guard Jermaine Jackson Jr. knocked down two consecutive threes that the Chippewas were able to bring GU’s lead down to eight points with 11 minutes left in the first half.

The Chippewas outshot the Zags from both beyond the arc and at the free throw line in the first half, outshooting GU 50% to 23.1% from deep and 75% opposed to 58.1% from the charity stripe. However, it was the Zags ability to score inside in the first 20 minutes as the team went 20-26 on two-point attempts which helped propel them to a 56-32 lead at half. 

GU’s defense took a step up in the second half, beginning with a Holmgren block on CMU’s first possession coming out of the locker room. GU Head Coach Mark Few said postgame that the Chippewas were the biggest, tallest and most physical team down low that his team has faced all season.

GU’s front was able to mitigate CMU’s scoring opportunities in the paint while also drawing fouls on the other side of the court. Every one of the four forwards who got minutes for CMU ended the game with at least two fouls while only putting up a combined 17 points, with two big men, Aundre Polk and Caleb Hodgson going scoreless on the night. 

While CMU struggled to get it going, Julian Strawther was a constant producer for GU starting at the 3 spot. In 25 minutes of action, the sophomore guard put up 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting and hauled in three boards. A deep three from Strawther just as the second half reached the 10 minute mark grew the GU lead to 85-44.

“[Julian] has been great and he’s kind of been what we expected of him quite frankly. It’s the same thing that Corey Kispert did and that’s just what you do at Gonzaga,” Few said. “That’s how it happens and we reward those guys who are patient and actually the game rewards those guys who are patient and work, that’s what the program is all about.”

The Zags continued to pile on from there while stifling any hopes CMU had of making the game competitive once again. Even while most of the GU’s rotational players were pulled, transfer guard Nolan Hickman took the reins of a squad of mostly walk-on players to grow the lead to 98-50 on a pull-up jumper with four minutes left. Hickman ended up with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting before being pulled from action. 

GU finished the game out on a 16-4 run, leaving T-Mobile Arena on a high note Monday night. Looking ahead toward Tuesday, GU will take on No. 2 UCLA at 7 p.m. before a meeting with No. 5 Duke on Friday at the same time. 

Asher Ali is the editor in chief. Follow him on Twitter: @asher_ali3.

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