The No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs came into the game as the nation’s top-ranked team, but they are now on their way to a second loss after trailing by double digits most of the first half. The last time these two teams squared off was in February and both were ranked at one point during that game with UCLA coming out victorious 63-62. This is also not the Bruins’ best start; this season only has six wins so far compared to Gonzaga’s 10 victories, proving how difficult it can be for even a strong basketball program like UCLA to compete against such powerhouse teams from opposing conferences.
LAS VEGAS, Nevada (AP) — Gonzaga won the Empire Classic 83-63 against No. 2 UCLA on Tuesday night, with Andrew Nembhard scoring 24 points and freshman Chet Holmgren displaying his unique skill set.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – NOVEMBER 23: Andrew Nembhard #3 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs snatches the ball from UCLA Bruins’ Johnny Juzang #3 during the Good Sam Empire Classic basketball tournament title game at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 23, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Ethan Miller)
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With a scintillating exhibition on both ends, the Zags (6-0) played like Vegas headliners, demonstrating that there is a significant difference between No. 1 and the current No. 2. Gonzaga shelled UCLA (5-1) with a massive early blitz and never looked back, defeating its second top-5 opponent this season.
As a soloist, Holmgren dominated the show at times, swatting shots, diving for dunks, and aweing the audience with his dexterity. When he blocked Myles Johnson’s shot and went end to end — with a dribble behind his back to boot — for a two-handed dunk early in the second half, the 7-foot-1, 195-pound rookie received a well-deserved standing ovation.
Holmgren had 15 points, six rebounds, and four blocked shots in the game. Drew Timme, who scored 18 points inside, was just as successful.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 19 points to keep the Bruins in the game, but he had to fight hard for them.
All week, the Strip’s dazzling lights shone on college basketball’s biggest names, including No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 Duke, No. 12 Houston, Arizona, Oregon, and Wisconsin.
The inaugural meeting of teams from the Pacific Time Zone pitted No. 1 against No. 2.
Last April in Indianapolis, the Zags and Bruins played an all-time Final Four contest, which Gonzaga won on Jalen Suggs’ running 3-point buzzer beater.
Suggs and a few others were gone, but Gonzaga coach Mark Few filled up the gaps with transfers and excellent freshmen, headed by Holmgren. The Zags have looked just as good in their first six games, winning by an average of 31.3 points per game.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – NOVEMBER 23: UCLA Bruins’ Tyger Campbell #10 drops the ball under pressure from Gonzaga Bulldogs’ Drew Timme #2 and Andrew Nembhard #3 during the Good Sam Empire Classic basketball tournament championship game at T-Mobile Arena on November 23, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Ethan Miller) )
Everyone has returned to UCLA, with the exception of big man Cody Riley, who has been sidelined since hurting his knee in the season opener. The Bruins struggled against Bellarmine on Monday, causing coach Mick Cronin to declare his squad unprepared for Gonzaga following a 75-62 victory.
He was absolutely correct.
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On offense, Gonzaga was at its best, taking apart the Bruins with clean cuts and passes. The Zags hit eight of their first nine shots to go up 29-8 after a 19-2 run. Gonzaga led 45-25 at halftime, despite the slowing tempo.
With their fast hands and feet, the Zags created even more havoc, batting off passes and shoots to create transition chances.
UCLA made a lot of tough shots and missed most of the open ones in the first half, shooting 11 for 41 from the field.
Even in the second half, when the Bruins began to crack Gonzaga’s defense, they were unable to stop the Zags.
Holmgren finished the rout with a three-pointer and a wave to the fans as he raced back.
Cronin hit the nail on the head when he declared his squad wasn’t prepared for Gonzaga. The Bruins were thrashed.
All of the new components, especially Holmgren, seem to go in well with the existing ones at Gonzaga.
On Saturday, UCLA takes on UNLV.
On Friday, Gonzaga will face No. 5 Duke in Las Vegas.
Bobby Cagle, the Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, is set to resign.
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