Drew Timme compared it to a final exam.
Others might have termed it a coming of age for No. 11 Gonzaga.
Whatever one wishes to call it, the Bulldogs’ 100-90 win over then-No. 4 Alabama on Saturday in Birmingham, Ala., constituted proof that they were worthy of their No. 2 preseason ranking and put to bed questions about their toughness and ability to beat an elite opponent.
That accomplishment freshly in the rear-view mirror, Gonzaga returns home to Spokane, Wash., for a Tuesday night non-conference clash with Montana.
There will be the usual sellout crowd at McCarthey Athletic Center, but it won’t be anywhere like the nearly 16,000 that packed the old Legacy Arena to see Timme score 29 and the Zags hit 57 percent of their field goal tries.
“We knew it was going to be a battle — that’s what we love and that’s what we want,” Timme said. “Proud of just all the guys for matching that and surpassing that level of physicality.
“Because that’s what we need to do. We need to be a bunch of junkyard dogs.”
Timme fit the image after a 3-point play in the first half, pounding a fist against his chest and woofing at a section of Alabama fans sitting behind the bucket. His teammates followed suit. All five starters finished in double figures and they forced 21 turnovers by the Crimson Tide.
Gonzaga (9-3) committed just nine turnovers, solving a problem that’s haunted it at times against opponents like Texas, Purdue and Baylor.
“When we’re not turning the ball over, we’re a very, very efficient team,” coach Mark Few said. “That’s a really, really big step for us. These guys did a really good job executing in a really, really high-possession game.”
Timme has averaged 26.5 points in the past four games, all wins. His season average is 21.3 on 62.6 percent shooting, while Julian Strawther chips in 13.0 points and 7.8 rebounds.
Meanwhile Montana (6-5) arrives after an 81-76 win over Prairie View A&M in Houston at the Coaches vs. Racism HBCU Roundball Classic. The Grizzlies converted a season-high 57 percent from the field and hit 7 of 8 3-pointers in a second-half run that put the game away.
“I think the biggest thing is our confidence in one another,” said coach Travis DeCuire. “A lot of these guys hadn’t played together before this season and now they have confidence in one another. Hopefully, we continue growing and get a bit stronger.”
Josh Bannan scored 22 points on 10 shot attempts for Montana, while Aanen Moody added 21. The duo combined to sink 7 of 10 3-point tries. Dischon Thomas contributed 17 points and Brandon Whitney hit for 16.
On the season, Bannan leads the team in scoring at 15.4 points per game, thanks to 51.7 percent shooting from the field.
The Zags have won all nine games in the series against the Grizzlies.
–Field Level Media