SPOKANE, Wash. — Chet Holmgren caught everyone’s attention during his college debut for No. 1 Gonzaga.
The nation’s top recruit this year, Holmgren had 14 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and seven blocks as the Bulldogs beat Dixie State 97-63 in their season opener Tuesday night.
“Chet’s spectacular,” said Brian Michaelson, who filled in as Gonzaga head coach for a suspended Mark Few. “He’s unbelievable. He should be celebrated.
“His work ethic is out of this world. He prepares for success.”
The 7-foot freshman was a bit less loquacious.
“It’s pretty cool,” Holmgren said about his debut. “I’m just happy we were able to come home with a win.”
They did it without Few on the sideline. Gonzaga’s longtime head coach received a three-game ban after he was cited for DUI in September. He previously sat out the team’s two exhibition games, but will be back when the Zags host No. 5 Texas on Saturday.
Julian Strawther had 17 points and 10 rebounds as Gonzaga won its 52nd consecutive home game, a program record. The team’s last home loss was Jan. 18, 2018, to Saint Mary’s.
Rasir Bolton added 15 points for Gonzaga (1-0), which was undefeated last season before losing to Baylor in the national title game.
Player of the Year candidate Drew Timme scored 11 as the Zags played before a home crowd for the first time since the 2019-20 season.
Cameron Gooden had 15 points and Dancell Leter scored 13 to lead Dixie State (0-1), a member of the Western Athletic Conference from St. George, Utah.
Gonzaga jumped to a 14-3 lead despite making just six of its first 18 shots.
Dixie State, however, made only one of its first 13 and trailed 23-4 with 8:50 left in the first half.
Gonzaga led 40-25 at halftime behind 11 points, nine rebounds and five blocks from Holmgren.
Brock Gilbert’s 3-pointer pulled Dixie State to 47-35 early in the second. But the Zags replied with a 13-4 run, including nine points by Strawther, to take a 60-39 lead with 12 minutes left. The Zags pulled away after that.
“They picked up their defense and we turned the ball over,” Dixie State coach Jon Judkins said. “Twenty-one turnovers is way too many.”
Judkins thought his squad did “some pretty good things” in the second half.
But not enough to beat the No. 1 team in the nation.
“These guys are good,” Judkins said.
Gonzaga had some shooting woes in the first half, going just 2 of 13 from 3-point range. That improved to 4 for 8 in the second half. The Zags shot 54% for the game, compared to 35% for Dixie State.
BETTER THAN LAST YEAR
Dixie State lost to Gonzaga 112-67 last season, so this was an improvement.
Gonzaga finished with nine blocks, while Dixie State had just one.
Dixie State: Still making the transition to Division I, the Trailblazers were picked to finish 12th in the WAC. They have four returning starters from a team that finished 8-13 last season.
Gonzaga: The Zags started a little rough but poured it on in the second half. Timme was a unanimous preseason AP All-America selection, and along with teammates Holmgren and Andrew Nembhard is among 50 players named to the watch list for the Naismith Trophy, given to the nation’s top player. … Gonzaga has averaged 33 wins a season since 2015, best in the nation. The Bulldogs have won 17 straight regular-season openers dating to 2003.
Dixie State hosts neighbor Southern Utah on Friday.
Gonzaga amps up the competition Saturday, when No. 5 Texas comes to Spokane for an early-season showdown.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Bolton said.