Gonzaga vs. UCLA score, takeaways: No. 1 Zags dominate as defense shuts down No. 2 Bruins
Gonzaga controlled the No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown from start to finish on Tuesday in Las Vegas
If there was any doubt over whether No. 1 Gonzaga truly deserved the top spot in the AP Top 25 following the departure of key players such as Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Joel Ayayi's from last season's national runner-up team, the Bulldogs erased it in emphatic fashion on Tuesday night. Gonzaga thrashed No. 2 UCLA 83-63 on a neutral floor at the Empire Classic in Las Vegas to firmly establish itself as the team to beat in college basketball with more than four months to play until a new national champion is crowned.
The Bulldogs outlasted the Bruins 93-90 in an overtime thriller during last season's Final Four, but there was never even a whiff of drama in the rematch. Gonzaga jumped to a 33-10 lead midway through the first half and never looked back while holding UCLA to just 35% shooting. Andrew Nembhard led Gonzaga with 24 points, while the frontcourt duo of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren combined for 33 more.
Jamie Jaquez Jr. led UCLA with 19 points, but it took him 22 shots to get there, and his inefficient night was emblematic of the Bruins' overall struggles. After scoring between 75 and 100 points in every game during a 5-0 start, UCLA looked disjointed offensively throughout the night.
The victory improves Gonzaga to 6-0 ahead of its showdown with No. 5 Duke on Friday, while UCLA falls to 5-1 in advance of a game with UCLA on Saturday.
Need more college basketball in your life? Listen below and subscribe to the Eye on College Basketball podcast where Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander break down Gonzaga's dominant win over UCLA in their No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup.
Holmgren shows it all
Entering Tuesday's game, Gonzaga's only victory of note came against No. 8 Texas on Nov. 13, and Holmgren was quiet against the Longhorns, scoring just two points while ceding the spotlight to Timme. But the No. 1 overall prospect from the 2021 recruiting class showed against UCLA that he is plenty capable of flexing against a top-tier foe. Holmgren finished with 15 points, six rebounds, four blocks and one of the best highlights of the season so far.
With UCLA trying to generate some momentum early in the second half, Holmgren blocked a shot by UCLA center Myles Johnson, dribbled the ball up the floor, went behind the back to elude Johnson and then slammed it home. The sequence illustrated why he is regarded as the potential No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Sets up Duke showdown
Gonzaga's win sets it up to potentially go 2-0 against top-five opponents this week. Next up for the Bulldogs is a showdown with No. 5 Duke on Friday. The game will pit Holmgren against Duke freshman forward Paolo Banchero, who is perhaps his top competitor for the No. 1 position on 2022 NBA Draft boards. Seeing those two on the court together in a top-five battle will be a scout's dream and offer a different element than was provided by Tuesday's game.
While the Bruins are regarded as a deep and all-round team, they don't have a guaranteed lottery pick in their rotation. Duke has at least one in Banchero. If Tuesday's performance was any indication, however, the Bulldogs should have no problems extending their regular season win streak to 33 games.
Nembhard entered without having reached double figures yet on the season. He changed that with 8:38 still remaining in the first half on Tuesday. The senior guard took control in transition during the first half and showed why these Bulldogs are so dangerous. While Timme and Holmgren get the headlines, the Zags also boast the critical championship ingredient of veteran guard play. Nembhard and Rasir Bolton, who are both seasoned transfers, exert a calming and unselfish presence into the rotation.
Losing Suggs, Ayayi and Kispert from last season's team does change the dynamics of this Gonzaga roster to a team that is more frontcourt-oriented. But Nembhard showed he can step up when needed and be an alpha in the backcourt as freshman guards Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis continue to develop.
If there was any doubt over whether No. 1 Gonzaga truly deserved the top spot in the AP Top 25 following the departure of key players such as Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Joel Ayayi's from last season's national runner-up team, the Bulldogs erased it in emphatic fashion on Tuesday night. Just a total beatdown.
He's got 17 points, but it's taken him 20 points to get there. While that is quite inefficient, it's also true that he's the only one truly been able or willing to create off the dribble. UCLA has only six turnovers but has struggled to get in a flow offensively. Part of that is Jules Bernard going MIA after a strong start to his season.
Strawther, Timme, Nembhard, Holmgren all in double figures now for Gonzaga with Rasir Bolt hovering on 9 points. Zags still shooting an absurd 60% from the floor with under five minutes to play. Just an all-around dominant display. Hard to believe these two teams went to overtime in April.
Underrated part of Gonzaga
Gonzaga's defense is underrated, because this UCLA team entered averaging 90+ and didn't have any trouble scoring against Villanova. But against the Zags, everything has been a struggle. There's just nothing like having that Holmgren security blanked down low, which allows perimeter defenders to close out with more aggression. Ain't gotta be worried about getting dunked on if you've got a dude with an 11-foot wingspan waiting in the paint.
UCLA puts Singleton out there to hopefully spark 'em from the outside but he misses his first look. Just not enough firepower for UCLA to possibly keep pace. Timme is up to 14 points — very quietly — and the Zags have it back at 23 with under 10 to play. Lights out in Vegas, but the action ain't over. Things may be getting a little chippy after a hard foul by Tyger Campbell vs. Julian Strawther.
UCLA is stable
The Bruins are no longer getting run off the floor as they've managed to make the pace a bit more choppy. But they still face a 19-point deficit at the u12 timeout. Seven fouls on Gonzaga in the half and none for UCLA. If the Bruins get it close, look out for this: 3 fouls on Strawther, Bolton and Holmgren, plus 4 on Anton Watson. Kaden Perry is getting some run here in the second half as a result.
UCLA trying to rally
Bruins with 16, which feels like a victory as their fans start to make a little noise. Jaquez is up to 16 points, though it's taken 15 shots for him to get there.
He just blocked a shot at one end, dribbled the ball up himself, went behind the back on Johnson and then slammed it. Dude literally did it all and showed why he's the potential No. 1 pick. Unreal. Zags up 54-33 at the u16 timeout. Holmgren is showing off tonight and building the hype for that matchup with Banchero on Friday.
Two turnovers on Gonzaga's first two possessions. That's a good start for UCLA, but the Bruins need to capitalize on them -- and force more of them -- to get back in this game. This team actually does have enough bodies to throw a full-court press at folks for extended periods of time if that's something they'd be interested in.
If UCLA wants to have any hope in the second half, it's going to start with getting to the FT line and hitting outside shots. Cronin is displeased with the officiating as Gonzaga has attempted 11 FTs versus just 3 for UCLA. There was a pretty bad no-call on a transition play that led to a Holmgren 3 on the other thend. But ultimately, the Bruins had 41 attempts from the field versus just just 26 for the Zags and haven nothing to show for it because they aren't getting to the line or hitting anything from deep.
Gonzaga shoots 57.7% from the floor and takes a 45-25 lead into the break against UCLA. The Bruins shot 26.8% from the floor and just 1 of 9 from deep. 13 points for Andrew Nembhard, 9 from Chet Holmgren and 9 for Rasir Bolton. Just a dominant half for the Zags. Here's a stat that'll hit you in the face: 14-0 on fastbreak points for Gonzaga.
After a length review, Jaylen Clark is called for a flagrant-1, and Drew Timme hits two free throws as a result. That won't help the Bruins salvage any momentum heading into the break. 42-20 Zags with under two minutes to play.
Holmgren showing it all
He's at 9 points, 4 rebounds and 3 blocks. Aaaand he just drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing. The 7-foot freshman phenom is showing his full repertoire against a big-time opponent. That's significant because he was essentially a non-factor in the Texas win. Timme has only three points and the Zags are streamrolling an elite team anway.
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