Chet vs Bellarmine

Chet Holmgren (34) flushes a one-hand dunk against the Knights defense for two of his 18 points.

The No. 1 Gonzaga University men’s basketball team (4-0) defeated the Bellarmine Knights (0-4) by a final score of 92-50 Friday night in the McCarthey Athletic Center. Drew Timme led the Zags with 25 points and five rebounds while shooting 7-for-10 from the floor.

“I was really happy with our effort,” GU head coach Mark Few said. “It’s basically the first game where we had two halves of really good defense. Our guys stayed with it.”

The Zags were coming off a victory over Alcorn State, 84-57, on Monday. Julian Strawther paced the Bulldogs with 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting from the floor, while freshman Hunter Sallis added 16 points in 25 minutes of action. The Zags shot 58.6% in that contest and scored 18 points off turnovers.

For Bellarmine, the Knights had dropped their third game of the season in a 73-64 loss to Saint Mary’s on Wednesday in Moraga. Dylan Penn racked up 27 points, the only Bellarmine player to score in double figures, as the Knights shot 51.1% from the floor.

Against the Knights, Strawther picked up right where he left off against Alcorn State. As GU’s offense sputtered coming out of the gate, including a 1-for-5 start in the first five minutes, Strawther found a rhythm from outside. The sophomore knocked down the first of his three 3-pointers after a Bellarmine turnover to make it a 10-8 ballgame. Two plays later, Strawther connected once again from deep off an assist from Andrew Nembhard.

With Strawther as the spark, the Zags offense caught fire. Anton Watson’s presence on the offensive glass gave Nembhard a clean look from deep, giving GU a double-digit lead midway through the first half. A few plays later, a Knights turnover led to Chet Holmgren flushing a two-hand dunk off an alley-oop pass from Nolan Hickman to cap off a 19-4 run.

“I’ve never jumped that high before,” Holmgren said.

As the game was slipping out of reach, Bellarmine’s offense led by Penn slowed to a halt. The senior guard kept the Knights in the ballgame early, accounting for the team’s first 13 points as Bellarmine possessed the lead five minutes into the game. But as transition opportunities became limited, the offense struggled to maintain consistency, including a four-minute stretch without a score.

At the break, the Zags held a 48-28 advantage while shooting 57.1% from the floor, including 6-for-14 from deep. Strawther and Timme combined for 28 first-half points, while Holmgren had 12 points.

While the outside shot had powered the offense throughout, GU capitalized off fastbreak opportunities in the second half. After snatching a defensive rebound, Holmgren went coast-coast against the Knights defense before finishing it off with a one-hand dunk. Later, a block by Hunter Sallis led to a one-hand flush on the other end for his first points of the ballgame.

Even with the starters sitting for a majority of the second half, the Zags continued to pour it on. GU finished the game on a 30-13 run to close the game.

Holmgren finished with 18 points, five rebounds and five assists while Strawther ended the night with 19 points.

The Bulldogs will travel to Las Vegas for the Continental Tire Challenge featuring Central Michigan and UCLA. GU will entertain the Chippewas on Monday before taking on the Bruins on Tuesday.

“We want to test what we’re made of,” Holmgren said. “[UCLA] is playing with a lot of confidence right now and they know their identity.”

Cole Forsman is a sports editor. Follow him on Twitter: @CGForsman.

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