Rewind Gonzaga-Kentucky: Drew Timme holds his ground against Oscar Tshiebwe in expected big man fight

Gonzaga and Kentucky play five more games over the next five seasons, but John Calipari and the Wildcats are fortunate that none of those games require a return to the Spokane Arena or “the Kennel 2.0,” like one clever student put on a sign held over a sea of ​​red and navy blue shirts.

During Sunday’s 88-72 win, a sold-out crowd at Spokane Arena — the largest in building history — gave the Zags a much-needed attack after suffering a 19-point loss to Texas. At times, the decibel level even affected Kentucky’s ability to communicate plays at the offensive end of the floor, a notable wildcat later told reporters.

“Today I didn’t really listen to what they said to me because it was so loud,” said striker Oscar Tshiebwe. “I said to them, ‘Let me know, let me know, so I can run up there and run what we’re supposed to run.’

Even with 18 turnovers, Gonzaga managed to execute his cleanest offensive play of the season – considering the level of the opposition – and for the third time in four games the Bulldogs received 22 points from Drew Timme, who defeated Tshiebwe in a battle of international candidates of the year

Timme vs. Tshiebwe kicks off today’s rewind, but we also examine Rasir Bolton’s impact in the second half and speak to former Zags who closely watched Sunday’s game.

Timme trumps Tshiebwe

When the subject of Tshiebwe’s limitation came up in Sunday’s post-game press conference, Timme diverted much of the credit to Anton Watson, who did an admirable job with the reigning international of the year, stripping him on back-to-back possessions in the first half.

But Timme’s efforts should not be underestimated either.

While Watson received praise for his defensive play against Tshiebwe, Timme worked on his friend and fellow All-American at the other end of the floor. Tshiebwe stayed out of foul trouble in the first half but picked up his second foul on a spinning Timme less than three minutes into the second half. About a minute later, Tshiebwe picked up foul #3 and guarded Timme in the paint.

“Of course, that’s not an easy task for anyone,” said Timme. “He was still getting something, 20 (points) and 15 (rebounds) but it didn’t feel like it. With players like that, you can’t make it easy for them, but you have to do your best to contain them.”

Apparently, the best way to contain someone like Tshiebwe is to keep them off the ground entirely. Foul problems forced the Kentucky star to play just 13 minutes of the second half. His fourth came when he guarded Julian Strawther with 12:48 left, at a time when the Wildcats had closed the deficit to 49-45.

Timme beat Tshiebwe and scored 69% of his field goals compared to the Kentucky Big Man’s 58%. Tshiebwe passed Timme 15:7 and only had two turnovers against Timme’s four. The Gonzaga forward dished out three assists while Tshiebwe registered none. Timme was on the ground for 36 minutes while Tshiebwe logged 28 minutes.

“He’s good, he’s good, he can really attack from dribbling,” Tshiebwe said of Timme. “I don’t know, I feel like I can get him. We need to figure out how to stop him. Even when I raised my hands it seemed like they were calling fouls too. But I feel like I just need to get better because I’ve been out for a while.”

Tshiebwe missed Kentucky’s opener while recovering from preseason knee surgery. He played 34 minutes in a double overtime loss to Michigan State and had a minute limit in Thursday’s South Carolina State blowout.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few praised Tshiebwe’s development over the past two years. The Bulldogs faced the Congo native in 2020 when he played in West Virginia. Tshiebwe showed signs of his potential, recording 14 points and nine rebounds in a WVU loss.

“He’s also gotten a lot better since we last played them,” Few said. “They did a phenomenal job developing it. He’s in great shape and a lot more stress than the first time we played him. Much better offensive ability, movement and he’s a handful.”

Assertive Bolton

With Nolan Hickman’s status in question leaving Texas, Bolton was willing to step in at point guard if the sophomore was deemed unfit to play against Kentucky.

Hickman’s ankle injury wasn’t severe enough to keep him off the starting lineup, but Bolton still recorded vital point guard minutes. Once Hickman committed his fourth foul at 9:57, Bolton assumed the role of GU’s floor general.

Good things happen when the Zags put the ball in Bolton’s hands late in the game, and Sunday was no different. The fifth-grader scored 19 of his powerful 24 points in the second half and had 15 of those in the last 11 minutes.

“He was huge. It was huge,” Few said. “We relied on him handling the ball better because Nolan was in trouble but we need him to handle the ball more. I think that’s probably when we’re at our best when everyone kind of shares it.

Bolton sealed the result with a 3-pointer to make it 81-69 at 2:23 and drank another deep shot only to improve on Gonzaga’s final possession. He finished 4 of 8 from beyond the arc and was confident when it came to chasing shots from within the 3-point line. Bolton made four 2-pointers and got to the line for four free throws.

“I think we’re going to need more goals from him as we progress this year,” said Few. “He was a bit reserved or reserved to be quite as aggressive.”

Former Zags are tuning in

Domantas Sabonis caught the end of Sunday’s GU-UK game from the Golden 1 Center after a 137-129 win for his Sacramento Kings over the Detroit Pistons.

Immediately following a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds, the former Gonzaga standout and two-time NBA All-Star turned his attention to ESPN’s broadcast of Bulldogs Wildcats from a Sacramento Arena weight room. In an Instagram video, Sabonis pointed his phone at the TV screen with the Zags leading 81-69 before pivoting to Kings guard and former Kentucky star De’Aaron Fox.

Sabonis wrote “Dogs > Cats” in the video and tagged all three Sacramento teammates who played for Calipari in Lexington: Fox, Malik Monk and Trey Lyles. Video.

Kyle Wiltjer, the ex-Kentucky forward who won a national championship with the Wildcats before joining Gonzaga, is from China, where he currently plays with the Zhejiang Lions.

“Drew Timme, I say that again, please let’s play in the men’s league together,” Wiltjer tweeted. “Yes, I am already recruiting. But my goodness rotisserie chicken all over the place!!! @ZagMBB”

Former Gonzaga forward Killian Tillie had one of the best seats in the house on Sunday, watching from the baseline with his girlfriend. Tillie, recently lifted by the Memphis Grizzlies, once helped Watson up when the GU senior crashed in the first half.