Let's just say the Gonzaga-UCLA rematch didn't live up to the hype.
Seven months after the Zags needed an all-timer of a buzzer-beater to escape the Bruins' bid to end their undefeated season, the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs smeared the No. 2 team in the country into a fine paste at the Good Sam Empire Classic in Las Vegas, winning 83-63.
Never mind that UCLA returned nearly the entire corps of its unlikely Final Four team while Gonzaga lost two All-Americans to the NBA draft. The Zags simply reloaded with the biggest bullet in the country, a seven-foot 19-year-old who combines guard-like skill with some of the best shot-blocking college basketball has ever seen.
CHET HOLMGREN GETTING IT DONE AT BOTH ENDS! 🔥🔥pic.twitter.com/6E5G9tq2lv
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 24, 2021
Rivals No. 1 overall recruit Chet Holmgren finished with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, six rebounds and four blocks, the most intimidating part of an onslaught that saw Gonzaga up 29-8 and 49-25 at certain points. UCLA found enough life in the second half to at least make the deficit not a total embarrassment, but the outcome was never in doubt.
Gonzaga senior Andrew Nembhard led the team in scoring with 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting with six assists and five rebounds, while preseason WCC Player of the Year Drew Timme had 18 points and eight rebounds.
Dick Vitale makes his return
The game was hardly competitive, but it still saw a dramatic moment before tip-off.
Amid a months-long battle with cancer, iconic ESPN color commentator Dick Vitale made his return to courtside to call his first game of the year. Vitale is currently undergoing treatment after being diagnosed with lymphoma, but doctors cleared him to call one of the season's most anticipated non-conference games.
Vitale opened the broadcast with an emotional address, thanking everyone who supported him.
We're so happy you're back, @DickieV ❤️
— ESPN (@espn) November 24, 2021
Could Gonzaga go undefeated again?
Look, Gonzaga still has some major challenges ahead of it, but when you spank the No. 2 team in the country a year after carrying an undefeated record into the national championship game, it's going to come up.
Gonzaga was on the verge of one of the greatest seasons in college basketball history before Baylor played spoiler, and the team has responded to that disappointment with some dominant basketball. UCLA wasn't even the first top-5 opponent the Zags embarrassed, as they did basically the same thing to Texas two weekends ago.
The picture will be a lot clearer two weeks from now, as Gonzaga still has dates with No. 5 Duke and No. 10 Alabama. Beat both of those teams, and the only currently ranked opponent Gonzaga will have left is No. 18 BYU.
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