Gonzaga rewind: Drew Timme reaches 2,000-point milestone, Zags contain Brandin Podziemski in Santa Clara win
Feb. 3—Gonzaga and Santa Clara played each other for the 100th time on Thursday. With the way meeting No. 99 played out three weeks ago at Santa Clara's Leavey Center, Bulldogs coach Mark Few wasn't too worried about his team looking past the Broncos and thinking ahead to Saturday's top-20 matchup against Saint Mary's.
"We're not in a position to look ahead," Few said. "We knew how tough the game was at Santa Clara, so they had the guys' full attention. Where we are as a team, we can't look past anybody in this league. We've got to bring it every night or we can get beat."
With the backing of its home crowd, Gonzaga made sure to bring it on Thursday, beating Santa Clara 88-70 in the Bulldogs' first game at the Kennel since losing 68-67 to Loyola Marymount.
The 12th-ranked Bulldogs are full-speed ahead preparing for Saturday's clash with the 18th-ranked Gaels. Before they get to Moraga, California, we take a quick look back at the Santa Clara win, focusing on another Drew Timme milestone and the defensive effort on Santa Clara's Brandin Podziemski (18.8 ppg).
It feels as though Timme is encroaching on another career milestone every time he puts on a uniform these days.
The senior forward came into Thursday's game needing only eight points to join Frank Burgess (2,196) and Jim McPhee in the program's 2,000-point club.
Timme came out of the gates slowly, scoring just four points on 2-of-7 shooting from the floor in the first half. He turned things around after halftime, hitting a layup inside the first 2 minutes of the second half and wasting little time getting career points 1,999 and 2,000.
Timme was already back at Gonzaga's end of the floor when Julian Strawther rebounded Keshawn Justice's missed 3-pointer and tossed ahead to his teammate. Nobody in a Santa Clara uniform was within 15 feet of Timme when he received Strawther's full-court pass, took one step and elevated for a two-handed dunk.
The Texas native flashed his trademark mustache celebration before running back down the floor.
"It's kind of crazy, to be honest," Timme said. "I'm pretty sure I hit that in high school. It's pretty cool, it's a lot of points, but kind of like I've been saying all year — it's super cool, but as long as we win that puts a smile on my face and we can enjoy the milestones when I'm done here."
Now at 2,007 career points, Timme, who averages 21.4 points per game, is on track to pass Jim McPhee for second place during Gonzaga's game at Saint Mary's on Saturday.
Timme needs eight points to match McPhee and nine to pass him.
He isn't the only accomplished scorer on Gonzaga's roster, either. Malachi Smith had eight points against the Broncos, moving the senior guard into the 1,500-point club.
The Bulldogs have three players who've achieved that feat: Timme (2,007), Rasir Bolton (1,743) and Smith (1,501).
"Man, that's a lot of buckets," Anton Watson said. "That's a lot of buckets, so it's nice to play with dudes like that. Dudes that can just score at will and they can all score at any time. It's nice for me because it's a lot of assists, and I love playing with all of them."
In one of his better rebounding games this season, Timme also moved up to No. 7 on Gonzaga's list, passing Greg Sten (783). Timme's next target on the rebounding list is Przemek Karnowski, who had 819 in a Zags uniform.
Dialing up the defense
Santa Clara's Podziemski is starting to learn the perils of going through the WCC cycle for a second time.
In his first game against Saint Mary's, the sophomore guard scored 19 points (5-of-13 shooting from the field) with nine rebounds. In the second game with Gaels, he was held to seven points (3 of 9 from the field) and three rebounds.
Thursday's game at Gonzaga was more proof the Illinois transfer probably won't sneak up on too many WCC teams as he encounters them for a second time.
Podziemski had 17 points (7-of-14 shooting from the field), seven rebounds and five assists when the Broncos nearly upset the visiting Zags last month, but he was limited to just 14 points and his lowest shooting clip (4 of 14 from the floor) in a conference game on Thursday night. Podziemski, who was 1 of 7 from the field at halftime, had just three rebounds and one assist.
"We just tried to play him physical and not let him get easy 3s," Timme said. "And he's a really good rebounder, so just keeping him off the glass and not letting him get second chances, but also knowing he likes to really pivot and pump-fake around in the paint.
"Tried to just get his tendencies down and thought we did a really good job teamwise on him because he's a helluva player."
The Zags threw a variety of players and body types at the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Podziemski, who was coming off a career-high 38-point outing against Pacific. Point guard Nolan Hickman spent time defending him in the first half; Strawther also saw plenty of Podziemski; and multiple bench players, including forward Ben Gregg and Hunter Sallis, got cracks .
"He's a tough guard, because he can hit those deep 3s, but he's very quick and gets in the lane," Few said. "As you can see, he does a good job pivoting around and getting to those little floaters. He's always on, man. He's peeling back for steals, he's a great rebounder for a guard.
"I thought we did a great job on him in the first half and even in the second half, we challenged a lot of those shots and some of them, I don't know how those things are going in."
Unique unit provides lift
Gonzaga fans are accustomed to seeing Timme, averaging 32.7 minutes per game, and Watson, averaging 28.4, on the floor together in most situations. When one of the Bulldogs' frontcourt starters comes off, the other normally stays on.
Few, not usually one to tinker and experiment with lineup combinations this late in the season, threw a change-up midway through the first half of Thursday's game, subbing Timme and Watson out of the game at the same time and replacing the veteran starters with sophomore reserves Ben Gregg and Efton Reid.
Gregg (10.5 mpg) and Reid (5.1 mpg) generally see the court in some capacity, but seldom together.
The young bigs worked well in tandem, potentially giving Gonzaga fans a glimpse of what the future could look like if both Timme and Watson elect to forgo a fifth college season and move on to pro ball.
In the 2 minutes, 21 seconds they shared, Gregg and Reid led a group that didn't allow Santa Clara to make a shot from the field, part of a 5-minute stretch when the Broncos' only point came from the free-throw line.
"That's huge, we need that," Timme said. "Look, we will play 37 minutes if we need to, but I would say we don't like to. They've been playing really good lately, especially Efton. He's really starting to get comfortable and you can see his confidence out there."
On the first possession with both reserve bigs on the floor, Gregg collected an offensive rebound and made a putback in traffic. Santa Clara's ensuing offensive possession culminated with Reid stuffing Cameron Tongue's layup at the rim.
"(Reid's) getting a lot better, Ben's been solid all year," Timme said. "The more Efton comes along, the better we're going to be. He brings a different dynamic to this team. He brings a different look on defense and I expect him to get more and more minutes the way he's been playing in practice and stuff. It's huge when we can just swap in like that."
Reid, who normally gets into the game for a brief run in the first half, had three first-half shifts on Thursday and played 8 minutes on the eve of his 21st birthday. His previous high in a WCC game was 7 minutes.
"He helped us, he helped us," Few said. "I told him after the game, he really helped us and every time he had a shift, he was big. Hopefully, we keep growing that."