LAS VEGAS – Chet Holmgren pushed the ball from the backboard, turned it over and ground it like a spider-legged point guard. He lost the defender with a dribble behind his back at the top of the key, took two steps and extended his 7-foot-1 frame for a two-handed dunk.
Gonzaga’s Lucky Freshman has unparalleled skill. His team may not have a rival at this point.
Holmgren performed with an array of dunks and blocked shots, and top seed Gonzaga was the No. 1 winner to win the Empire Classic on Tuesday night. 2 defeated UCLA 83-63.
“It was no shock to any of us,” said Gonzaga forward Drew Timme. “What do we expect from him and what does he expect from him? It’s just Chet. He is one of a kind. ”
The Zags (6-0) played like the Vegas headliners, with a dazzling display on both ends. 1 and the present no. Shows that there is a large gap between the 2. Gonzaga Shell shocked UCLA (5-1) with a huge opening blitz and would not let its second top-5 team beat this season.
Holmgren sometimes stole the show as a soloist, refused shots, ran into dunks, and amazed audiences with his agility. He finished with 15 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots.
According to UCLA coach Mick Cronin, Andrew Nembard is the best player on the floor, finishing with 24 points. Timmie was a cheater as usual, scoring 18 points in an atmosphere that felt a bit like March Madness.
“It reminded me of something you would see in a regional final or regional semifinal,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few. “It was a good atmosphere and it perfectly matched the game. What was in danger and the two teams that went there.”
Jaime Jacquez Jr. had 19 points, but he had to work for everything he got, and pre-season All-American Johnny Zhuang held on for 11 points.
UCLA found little rhythm after an ugly offensive first half but had no chance to stop the Zags hitting 56%.
“We’re not a good defensive team and we’re exposed to a good team,” Cronin said.
The bright lights of the strip shone on College Hoops Luminaries all week, no. 4 Michigan, no. 5 Duke, no. 12 Houston, Arizona, Oregon and Wisconsin appeared on the marquee.
The teams are the No. 1 seed from the Pacific time zone. 1 vs. No. Top billing went to 2 meeting.
The Zags and Bruins played All-Timer in Indianapolis last April, an epic Final Four game won by Gonzaga in Jalen Suggs’ running 3-point buzzer beater.
Gonzaga lost to Suggs and a few others, but some of the roster holes filled with transfers and talented newcomers under Holmgren’s title. The Zags are looking good, winning their first six games by an average of 31.3 points.
UCLA has taken everyone back, though big man Cody Riley is out after injuring his knee in the season opener. The Bruins didn’t look too good against Bellarmine on Monday, prompting Cronin to say his team wasn’t ready for Gonzaga after the 75-62 win.
Gonzaga was excellent in free flowing on offense, separating the Bruins with crisp cuts and passes. The Zags scored eight of their first nine shots and went up 29-8, using a 19-2 run. Even after the pace slowed, Gonzaga swept from 45-25 at the break.
“We didn’t offer much resistance,” Cronin said.
The Zags caused more problems with their quick hands and feet, throwing passes and punches to set up conversion opportunities.
UCLA took several difficult shots and went 11 of 41 from the field in the first half, missing most of the open shots.
Even when the Bruins began to somewhat address Gonzaga’s defense in the second half, they couldn’t stop the Zags.
Holmgren punctuated the crush, struck out 3, and shook hands with the crowd as they ran back.
Dickie V is back, baby!
ESPN analyst Dick Vitale was behind the microphone at T-Mobile Arena for the first time since undergoing cancer treatment.
The 82-year-old announced in October that he had lymphoma and had a fourth-round treatment a few days before Tuesday’s game. At the start of the broadcast, Vitale became emotional and gave a loud applause when she was shown on a video board inside the arena.
“He loves this game and has done so much for this game,” some said. “He’s such an ambassador for college basketball.”