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No. 3 Gonzaga gets another test in No. 16 Alabama

It wasn’t quite the bounce-back effort Gonzaga coach Mark Few had hoped for after losing to then-No. 5 Duke on Nov. 26 in Las Vegas, but file the 64-55 win over Tarleton State on Monday in the “win is a win” category.

Despite committing 16 turnovers and being tied with the lightly regarded Texans deep into the second half, the third-ranked Bulldogs used a 22-4 advantage in transition points to avoid what would have been a whopping upset.

Gonzaga will aim to play a better game Saturday against a better opponent when it meets No. 16 Alabama in Seattle.

Perhaps it was the aftereffect of spending a week in Las Vegas, where the Zags (7-1) walloped Central Michigan and then-No. 2 UCLA before finding foul trouble in an 84-81 setback to the Blue Devils.

But it didn’t take extensive video review to conclude that Gonzaga wasn’t its normal efficient, devastating self in the lane. Tarleton State’s four-guard, one-swingman lineup created ball pressure that offset the Zags’ huge size advantage.

“They just played with super-high energy,” Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren said. “They made us work for everything, really.”

Holmgren made his work count with 15 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. At 13.8 ppg, 7.0 rebounds and 3.8 blocked shots, the 7-foot freshman has mostly lived up to the hype of being the top-rated recruit in this year’s class.

Drew Timme (17.4 ppg, 5.8 rebounds) leads four Zags in double figures, followed by emerging shooting guard Julian Strawther (14 ppg, 7.0 rebounds) and Iowa State transfer Rasir Bolton (11.6 ppg, 45.7 percent 3-point shooting).

Gonzaga ranks first in Division I in field goal percentage (54.5) and tied for ninth in points per game (86.8) — numbers that figure to get a test from the Crimson Tide (6-1).

After eating an upset loss on Thanksgiving Day to Rick Pitino’s Iona at an ESPN tournament in Florida, Alabama rebounded with victories over Drake and Miami. Its 96-64 rout of Miami on Sunday featured 53.6 percent shooting, including a 16-of-30 performance on 3-pointers, and a 42-23 domination on the boards.

“I thought our second half was as good as any we’ve played this year,” Tide coach Nate Oats said. “It was good to get that under our belt before we left for Seattle. We made shots and got the ball moving.”

Four players scored in double figures for Alabama, led by Keon Ellis’ 22 points on just 11 shot attempts. Jaden Shackelford scored all 15 of his points on 3-pointers, while JD Davison came off the bench to put up a 13-point, 10-assist double-double.

The Tide rang up 63 second-half points and rank 12th nationally in points per game at 85.7, but they have had occasional issues with turnovers and free throw shooting, where they rank 319th in Division I at 64 percent.

Shackelford leads the team at 18 points per game, thanks to 39.1 percent accuracy from behind the arc.

This will be the first meeting of the programs.

–Field Level Media