No. 1 Gonzaga turns showdown with No. 2 UCLA into 83-63 rout

  • Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis drives on Houston forward J’Wan Roberts (13) in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game at the Maui Invitational in Las Vegas, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Gonzaga forward Drew Timme gestures to the crowd during the first half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against UCLA on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/L.E. Baskow)

LAS VEGAS — Andrew Nembhard scored 24 points, freshman Chet Holmgren showed off his unique skill set and top-ranked Gonzaga overwhelmed No. 2 UCLA 83-63 Tuesday night to win the Empire Classic.

The Zags (6-0) played like Vegas headliners, showing there’s a big gap between No. 1 and the current No. 2 with a dazzling display at both ends. Gonzaga shell shocked UCLA (5-1) with a huge early blitz and never let up to beat its second top-5 team this season.

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Holmgren stole the show as a soloist at times, swatting shots, swooping for dunks and awing the crowd with his agility. The 7-foot-1, 195-pound freshman earned a deserved ovation early in the second half, when he blocked Myles Johnson’s shot and went end to end — with a dribble behind his back to boot — for a two-handed slam.

Holmgren finished with 15 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots. Drew Timme was just as effective inside, scoring 18 points.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. tried to keep the Bruins in it, finishing with 19 points, but had to work for everything he got.

The Strip’s bright lights shined on college hoops luminaries all week, with No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 Duke, No. 12 Houston, Arizona, Oregon and Wisconsin appearing on the marquee.

Top billing went to the first No. 1 vs. No. 2 meeting of teams from the Pacific Time Zone.

The Zags and Bruins played an all-timer last April in Indianapolis, an epic Final Four game won by Gonzaga on Jalen Suggs’ running 3-point buzzer beater.

Gonzaga lost Suggs and a few others, but coach Mark Few also filled in the roster holes with transfers and talented freshman, headlined by Holmgren. The Zags have looked just as good, winning their first six games by an average of 31.3 points.

UCLA has everyone back, though big man Cody Riley has been out since injuring his knee in the season opener. The Bruins didn’t look so good against Bellarmine on Monday, prompting coach Mick Cronin to say his team was not ready for Gonzaga after the 75-62 win.

He was right.

Gonzaga was at its free-flowing best on offense, picking apart the Bruins with crisp cuts and passes. The Zags made eight of their first nine shots and used a 19-2 run to go up 29-8. Even after the pace slowed, Gonzaga still led 45-25 at halftime.

The Zags caused even more problems with their quick hands and feet, swatting down passes and shots to set up transition opportunities.

UCLA took numerous difficult shots and missed most of the open ones it got, going 11 for 41 from the field in the first half.

Even when the Bruins started to somewhat solve Gonzaga’s defense in the second half, they couldn’t stop the Zags.

Holmgren capped the crushing by hitting a 3 and waving to the crowd as he ran back.

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Cronin nailed it when he said his team was not ready for Gonzaga. The Bruins got steamrolled.

All those new pieces seem to be fitting in nicely with the old ones at Gonzaga, particularly Holmgren.

UP NEXT

UCLA plays at UNLV on Saturday.

Gonzaga plays No. 5 Duke in Las Vegas Friday.

WISCONSIN 65, NO. 12 HOUSTON 63

LAS VEGAS – Johnny Davis scored a career-high 30 points and Wisconsin beat Houston in the Maui Invitational semifinals.

The Cougars erased a 20-point halftime deficit and cut Wisconsin’s lead to two on Kyler Edwards’ 3-pointer with 40 seconds left. With the final possession, Jamal Shead drove baseline and passed to Edwards, who wasn’t expecting the feed, costing Houston a chance at a final attempt.

Davis finished 10 of 18 from the floor, including 4 for 7 from 3-point range, and was 6 for 6 at the free throw line.

Tyler Wahl had nine points and seven rebounds for the Badgers (4-1).

Houston (4-1) was led by Edwards, who had 18 points — 15 in the second half via five 3-pointers. Marcus Sasser added 11.

NO. 13 ARKANSAS 73, CINCINNATI 67

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Au’Diese Toney scored 19 points, including the go-ahead free throws with 1:23 left, and Chris Lykes was perfect at the foul line down the stretch to help Arkansas beat Cincinnati in the title game of the Hall of Fame Classic.

Lykes finished with 15 points and JD Notae overcame another cold-shooting night to finish with 13 for the Razorbacks (5-0), who made every crucial play in the closing minutes of a game that neither team led by more than six.

Toney’s free throws gave the Razorbacks a 68-67 lead, the fifth time it had changed hands in the final five minutes. Jeremiah Davenport missed at the other end for Cincinnati, and Arkansas grabbed three consecutive offensive rebounds before Lykes was fouled and made two more free throws with 21.8 seconds left.

The Bearcats (5-1) squandered one last chance when Mike Saunders Jr. was called for charging with 9.6 seconds to go.

David DeJulius scored 24 points to lead Cincinnati.

NO. 14 ILLINOIS 72, KANSAS STATE 64

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kofi Cockburn had 23 points and 13 rebounds, Alfonso Plummer scored 21 on seven 3-pointers and Illinois held off pesky Kansas State in the consolation game of the Hall of Fame Classic.

Plummer finished 7 of 9 from beyond the arc and the Illini (3-2) went 12 for 26 from 3-point range as they bounced back from a 71-51 loss to Cincinnati in the semifinals and avoided their third consecutive loss.

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It came at a cost, though: Trent Frazier, who scored 23 points against Marquette but was held scoreless by the Bearcats, hurt his left knee midway through the second half. The Illini guard was 0 for 5 from the field but had five assists at the time.

Markquis Nowell scored 19 points and Nijel Pack had 15 for the Wildcats (2-2), who committed just four turnovers.