NCAAB: No. 6 Gonzaga looks to find rhythm again vs. Xavier


The season isn’t even three weeks old and sixth-ranked Gonzaga has dropped multiple nonconference games by double digits for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign.

The Bulldogs will try to restore order on Sunday evening when they face Xavier in the third-place game of the Phil Knight Legacy at Portland, Ore.

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Gonzaga (4-2) had no answer for Purdue big man Zach Edey (23 points) in Friday’s semifinal matchup and the No. 24 Boilermakers cruised to an 84-66 victory. The loss came just nine days after Texas rolled to a 93-74 victory over the Bulldogs.

The beatings are stunning, as Gonzaga went 192-18 over the previous six seasons and still has All-American Drew Timme leading the way.

Against Purdue, the Bulldogs were outrebounded 46-31, shot just four free throws to the Boilermakers’ 22 and made just 40.3 percent of their field-goal attempts.

“They decided not to guard some of our guys and I think that threw off some of the things we do, but then we adjusted to that and when we were patient, we got any look we wanted,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said afterward. “… We missed a lot of lay-ins around the rim. Some were Edey-influenced and some weren’t.”

Timme had 22 points and nine rebounds while matched up against the 7-foot-4 Edey. Nolan Hickman added 15 points, but Julian Strawther (four points) and Malachi Smith (three points) had poor offensive outings.

As the shots clanked off the rim and the deficit grew, Few could see the game slipping away.

“I thought we took a couple — well more than a couple, five, six, seven pull-up jumpers that we didn’t need to and that led to some frustration and carried over to the defensive end,” Few said. “We got torched on defense in the second half.”

Xavier (4-2) struggled on offense in its semifinal loss to No. 8 Duke. The Musketeers established a season-low point total in the 71-64 setback.

Souley Boum matched his season best of 23 points while making all 12 free-throw attempts, but Xavier shot just 38.5 percent from the field and committed 15 turnovers.

Coach Sean Miller, in the first season of his second stint with the Musketeers, was highly disappointed in the performance.

“There were way too many segments of the game, if not most of the game, where we were at times, in our own way,” Miller said. “Movement, cutting, unselfishness, togetherness.

“You know, when you’re behind or you’re losing, it tests your resolve. It tests your togetherness. We weren’t the cohesive group that I know we can be.”

Xavier’s Jack Nunge had a rough outing with just five points on 1-of-13 shooting. He entered the game with a 16.8 scoring average.

“Jack played (with) great effort. He really did,” Miller said. “He was ready for the game. He just had one of those nights where the ball didn’t go in the basket.”

The availability of Adam Kunkel (11.5 points per game) might not be known until close to game time. He sustained a head injury during the second half of the loss to Duke and didn’t return.

Either way, the Musketeers are focused on playing much better in the matchup with the Zags.

“We got no time,” Boum said. “We’re gonna play a really good team. … We gotta flip the page and get our energy and our togetherness right, come together and play together.”

Gonzaga has won four of the five meetings with the Musketeers, including two wins in the NCAA Tournament (2006 first round, 2017 Elite Eight).

–Field Level Media

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