Coming off a two-week layoff from its last game, No. 1 Gonzaga flexed its muscles in fantastic fashion Saturday to defeat No. 3 Iowa 99-88 in Saturday's marquee game of the day in college hoops. The Bulldogs made a whopping 50% (13 of 26) of their shots from 3-point range and withstood Luka Garza's 30 points to remain undefeated and improve to 4-0 on the season.
Gonzaga combatted Garza's big day with an equally gigantic showing from its own star, freshman Jalen Suggs, who scored a career-high 27 points. Suggs finished 7 of 10 from the 3-point line in a brilliant performance, tallying more makes from distance in his three previous games combined and three more shots from beyond the arc than Iowa (4 of 22) made as a team. He also added seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block.
Given how long a layoff Gonzaga had, how ready -- or rusty -- the team looked against a surging Iowa team was a major question mark. Yet the Zags handled business with relative ease in their first game back since Dec. 2. They were up 51-37 at halftime and led by as many as 20 points in the second half. Iowa made a push late to cut the lead to 10 with just over a minute left in the game, but the outcome was never really in doubt.
Suggs had plenty of support as Gonzaga strutted to its best win of the season to date. Drew Timme, the team's leading scorer, finished with 15 points before fouling out. Joel Ayayi added 11 points and a game-high 18 boards. And both Andrew Nembhard and Corey Kispert added 13 points, with Kispert getting his production despite foul trouble.
It's hard to imagine a better and more complete showing from Gonzaga in a normal game, much less in one under unique circumstances. That the team never really struggled to put away Iowa -- the team with the top-ranked offense in the sport -- speaks to just how good and lethal its ceiling can be this season.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Gonzaga is the unquestioned title favorite
The preseason No. 1 team and the preseason favorite to win it all is the unquestioned national title favorite. Not a surprise. But it's still shocking to see in action just how great this team really is. Mark Few has weapons at every position on the court with NBA talent scattered throughout. Any team can be beaten on any given night, given the random nature of a 40-minute exhibition. It's just hard to see any team beating Gonzaga right now. If this is what the team looks like after not playing or practicing for two weeks, imagine how good it'll be when it starts hitting its stride this spring. Yowza.
Jalen Suggs has another gear
We've seen Gonzaga come in waves at opponents all season by attacking in a variety of ways -- with Timme down low, with Kispert everywhere, and with Suggs in attack mode. Yet we have yet to see (until Saturday) just how good Suggs can be when he has everything working. He's always got the juice to attack the rim and create, but when he's knocking down 3-pointers ... you can kiss your chances goodbye. If this is what Gonzaga gets from him every night -- or even if they get 75% of this version of him -- then the Bulldogs have a top-five player in college hoops who can lead them to the promised land. That's a scary thought given that he was just the fourth-leading scorer on his own team coming into today.
Iowa's offense will keep it in games
You're not going to win many games when you surrender 99 points in college, or when your opponent shoots above 50% from the field, or 50% from 3-point range. That's what Gonzaga did to Iowa. But you're not going to lose many games when you score 88 points in a game, either. The Hawkeyes' defense remains problematic -- and likely will continue to be so all season -- but when you've got Luka Garza and an offense that's statistically tops in all of college hoops, you're going to have a chance to be in every game this season. If there's a positive takeaway from this one for Iowa, it's that Gonzaga played as well as we've seen all season and Iowa, which did not, still had a puncher's chance late in the game.