basketball-men-d1 flag

Zach Pekale | | November 26, 2020

How No. 1 Gonzaga ran away from No. 6 Kansas in a battle of top-10 teams

Andrew Nembhard discusses his recent eligibility news ahead of Gonzaga's season opener vs. Kansas

Over-indulging is a Thanksgiving tradition. So for those who watched No. 1 Gonzaga outlast No. 6 Kansas before carving a turkey, you'll need to live with having two main courses today. The top-10 matchup between the Bulldogs and Jayhawks more than lived up to its preseason hype in a 102-90 shootout in favor the Zags. Here's how college basketball's No. 1 team pulled off the win.

Bulldogs start fast

Gonzaga's willingness to push the tempo was evident from the get-go Thursday. Freshman point guard Jalen Suggs appeared to catch Kansas off guard early with his open floor speed and ability to get the Bulldogs into transition. Gonzaga's pace of play resulted in multiple fast break opportunities and high-percentage shots, which they continued to find throughout the game as GU finished with 28 points in transition.

MORE: Andy Katz ranks his top 10 All-America candidates

Kansas' half court offense struggled to find its rhythm. After being sped up, unable to get 1-on-1 looks in the post or consistent dribble penetration — the Jayhawks settled for perimeter looks on seven of their first 13 attempts. Gonzaga took a 12-point lead into the under-12 timeout, forcing KU to play from behind most of the first half.

Timme's time

Gonzaga led all Division I teams last year with 87.4 points per game and posted the nation's second-highest field-goal percentage at 51.5 percent. A big reason for that was the Bulldogs' interior dominance, which they continued in their 2020-21 opener. Gonzaga had 62 points in the paint to Kansas' 34 while shooting 64.5 percent from the floor and out-rebounding the Jayhawks 33-24. Sophomore Drew Timme spent much of last season behind veterans Killian Tillie and Filip Petrusev. With both gone, Timme established himself as the Bulldogs' top post option in his fifth career start with all 25 of his points coming at or below the free throw line.

As for KU, replacing Udoka Azuibuke is far easier said than done and is usually a committee approach. However, head coach Bill Self might have something in redshirt freshman Jalen Wilson. At 6-8, he's unlikely to become a premier rim protector, but Wilson's activity in the post is a promising sign for things to come. He finished with 11 points and four rebounds, including three on the offensive end.

RESTART: Teams with the best chance to pick up where they left off in 2020

Strength in numbers 

Kansas tied the game early in the second half, but slowly tailed off as guards Marcus Garrett (22 points) and Ochai Agbaji (17 points) got into foul trouble, which forced freshman Bryce Thompson (12 points) to try to facilitate and score more in his first game.

If there's one thing to take from this matchup, it's Gonzaga's depth. To call the Bulldogs national title contenders after Thursday might be premature, but head coach Mark Few, who earned his 600th win on Thursday, has a rotation that most coaches would covet come March. The starting five of Suggs, Timme, Anton Watson, Joel Ayayi and preseason All-American Corey Kispert lit up the scoreboard with a combined 89 points. This was Kansas' first game giving up more than 100 points since its 2016-17 season-opener.

Ayayi led the team with nine rebounds while Suggs had eight assists as he, Timme and Kispert each went over 20 points to begin the new season.

Beyond the starters, Few has one of the top sixth men in college basketball in Andrew Nembhard, who added 11 points off the bench. Gonzaga went 10 deep in its opener and kept its foot on the gas for close to 40 minutes. There aren't many teams capable of matching that depth and pace for an entire game.

The top 25 returning men's basketball players for the 2022-2023 season

After the NBA draft withdrawal deadline, Gonzaga has two of the top 25 returning players in the sport, according to Andy Katz.

College basketball rankings: Drew Timme's return sees Gonzaga rise in Andy Katz's Power 36

Drew Timme's return rockets Gonzaga from from 22nd to second in Andy Katz's college basketball rankings, made after the NBA Draft withdrawal deadline.

Chet Holmgren: College basketball stats, best moments, quotes at Gonzaga

Essential stats, facts and quotes from Chet Holmgren's college basketball career at Gonzaga.

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from and our partners