BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Drew Timme and Gonzaga’s veteran team got the better of Alabama’s youngsters in the end.
Timme matched his season-high with 29 points and No. 15 Gonzaga overcame freshman Brandon Miller’s 36-point outburst to beat No. 4 Alabama 100-90 on Saturday in the C.M. Newton Classic.
Timme had 10 rebounds, four assists and made 12 of 18 shots to help the Bulldogs (9-3) cool off one of the nation’s hottest teams. The Crimson Tide (9-2) had won four straight and beat two No. 1 teams to earn their highest ranking in 15 years, including a road win over Houston for the nation’s top rebounding team.
“Obviously they’re a physical, tough bunch,” Timme said. “We all saw the Houston game. If you’re able to rebound with them, you’re classified as a pretty tough team, I would say. We knew it was going to be a battle, and that’s what we love and that’s what we want.”
Alabama outrebounded Gonzaga 37-30 but still collected 12 fewer than usual, partly because both teams shot better than 50%.
It was a familiar situation – and outcome – for Gonzaga, which is 7-1 in regular-season games against teams ranked in the top five by either the AP or the coaches’ poll since 2018-19.
Miller scored 26 points in the second half, including the team’s first 10. The nation’s top scoring freshman had just delivered a 21-point second half in a 91-88 victory over Memphis but couldn’t carry his team to the win this time.
Timme got much more scoring support against a team starting three freshmen.
The Bulldogs had six double-figure scorers. Anton Watson scored 17, Nolan Hickman had 13 and Malachi Smith 12. Rasir Bolton and Julian Strawther each scored 11.
Gonzaga made 20 of 27 second-half shots (74%).
Freshman Jaden Bradley scored 18 points for Alabama in his second start. The third freshman starter, Noah Clowney, had nine points and 13 rebounds.
Miller, who doubled his season scoring average, made 6 of 11 3-pointers to keep it close. It was the most points by a Tide player since Kira Lewis Jr. scored 37 at Georgia on Feb. 8, 2020.
Without his second-half surge, “we wouldn’t have been in the game at all,” Tide coach Nate Oats said.
“Our defense was really struggling,” Oats said. “Him being able to get some buckets in the second half kept us in the game.”
Timme scored the last four points of the first half to stake Gonzaga to a 47-42 lead, holding Alabama scoreless over the last 2:56.
Smith scored on a 3-pointer and a drive to give the Bulldogs a 79-67 lead with nine minutes left.
It turned into a scoring duel between the senior Timme and one of the nation’s top freshmen. Both delivered big performances and high praise for each other.
Timme called Miller an NBA draft “lottery-level guy.”
“He’s a hell of a player. He really stepped up when his team needed him,” the Gonzaga star said.
For his part, Miller said Timme “has probably the best footwork in the country.”
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said. “He’s tough to guard. He gave us trouble early and then gave us trouble at the end of the game.”
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs committed just nine turnovers. They shot 40 of 70 (57.1%) from the floor to return the favor after a 91-82 loss to Alabama last season in Seattle. The Zags reached 100 points for the fourth time this season.
Alabama: Miller’s teammates weren’t as hot from 3-point range, making just 2 of 14 attempts. Alabama committed 21 turnovers. Freshmen scored the Tide’s first 16 points, including seven from Bradley and a pair of Miller 3s.
Alabama fell short of its fourth win over a Top 25 team, but Oats is hoping the tough nonconference schedule pays dividends for his squad.
“We’ll get better,” he said. “We play these good games to figure out what we’ve got to get better on and we’ve got plenty of stuff to work on.”
Gonzaga hosts Montana on Tuesday night.
Alabama hosts Jackson State on Tuesday night.