Top-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs head No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes in first Match since Dec. 2

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs (1) shoot a 3-pointer during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020 in SIoux Falls, S.D. (AP Photo/Josh Jurgens)

The Bulldogs had not played a match since Dec. 2 against West Virginia, as a result of COVID-19 cancellations and protocols. They did not return to practice until earlier this past week.

“I’ve incredibly brave and aggressive men that just love to perform and they love to weave collectively,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “This was the whole secret. It wasn’t simple. We had been gassed, particularly in that second half. We had been beneath all sorts of foul pressure and hardship based on this. It only shows the kind of opponents that they are, the sort of personality they have.

“If you watched practice the very first day back from the COVID layoff, the team required to put on catcher’s masks or something the balls were flying all around the place, simply to be safe… I am proud of precisely how they competed since I was not certain how we’d manage coming back from it.”

A 13-0 run midway through the first half turned into a one-point lead to some 12-point edge and Iowa was not really in achieving the remainder of the way.

Suggs was the catalyst for the Bulldogs at both ends of the ground, racking up three steals and including a highlight-reel block at the transition from the first half. He seemed healthy after being forced to leave the West Virginia game briefly due to a leg injury.

“Coming into this weekend, I truly felt as though my jump shot enhanced and I felt quite comfortable with this,” Suggs said. “This game, for me especially, was a great learning experience. I had a few talks with Coach, only on some matters, only about slowing down, keeping it easy, allowing the game to come to me.”

Suggs has been among the best freshmen in the nation this year and is beginning to garner buzz for a lottery pick in the 2021 NBA draft — and possibly even at the No. 1 pick dialog. However, he also made it clear following the match he is not considering another level at the moment.

“It is good to listen, but I am not focused on this. “I believe [my teammates] together with the training staff have done a fantastic job of keeping me grounded and assisting me to keep the outside sound out, and continue to operate daily. That is what I would like to perform, and anything that happens in the long term occurs. However, for now, I am locked in with my men “

Gonzaga entered the game shooting only 29.1percent from 3-point selection, but the Bulldogs buried 10 first-half 3-pointers and ended the matchmaking 13-for-26 from behind the arc. That is their prolific 3-point shooting campaign as moving 13-for-19 against Southern Miss in November of last season.

The Bulldogs always made plays transition, grabbing rebounds and pushing the ball up the floor from an unsettled Iowa defense. The fast-break points together with the 3-point barrage from the first half had been something that the Hawkeyes — who’ve fought defensively the last couple of seasons — could not stop.

“They have got a lot of weapons, which means that you have ta attempt to prevent it all. “In the first half, we did not do a fantastic job in transition, charge them. We had one stretch in which nothing had been falling… for their charge, they pushed it scored. We had to return and find a stop.

“You are playing an extremely gifted team, who have got a fantastic coach. So they are not typically an error team… This group struggles you in a lot of ways. They perform quite well with their half-court crime, and they rally, plus they’ve depth. And they have some veteran guys coming from the bench.”

Iowa large man Luka Garza, the Award favorite, nevertheless ended with 30 points and 10 rebounds for the Hawkeyes, shooting 13-for-18 in the area. But against North Carolina, when Garza’s supporting cast stepped up large in the perimeter, Iowa could not get it moving from the exterior. The Hawkeyes shot only 4-for-22 out of a 3-point selection.

They had been flying shooters. There were a few instances where I believe I could have shot-faked, strove to have a shot-fake sidestep, things like this.”

Gonzaga hosts Northwestern State on Monday before going to Texas to confront Virginia on Dec. 26, while Iowa heads directly into Big Ten play a home game against Purdue on Tuesday.