Gonzaga vs.  Texas score, takeaways: No. 11 Longhorns go off, hand No. 2 Zags worst loss since 2014

Gonzaga vs. Texas score, takeaways: No. 11 Longhorns go off, hand No. 2 Zags worst loss since 2014

Texas christened its brand new Moody Center arena on Wednesday night with a momentous victory in its first major test against a ranked opponent since the venue’s opening earlier this year. Behind a career night from Tyrese Hunter, who finished with 26 points, the Longhorns downed No. 2 Gonzaga in a 93-74 beatdown, showing their strengths as one of the best — and most entertaining — teams in college basketball.

Gonzaga hung around early and even led for a stretch in the first half, but it got late quick for the Zags as Longhorns fans lit up the arena to help their team to a 10-point halftime lead. Texas never trailed from there and built its lead to as many as 23 in the second half before finishing with a 19-point margin of victory. The loss was Gonzaga’s most lopsided by total margin since a 23-point defeat vs. Arizona in March 2014.

Everything seemed to go right for Texas and, conversely, the wheels fell off the wagon (and then the wagon sat on cinder blocks in the middle of the intersection) for Gonzaga. Texas rained down 13 3s on 33 attempts, didn’t miss a free throw until late (it finished 12 of 16 from the line) and persistently pressured the Zags into making mistakes on the perimeter. That was the genesis of Gonzaga’s struggles: It committed 20 turnovers on the night — 11 of them coming in the first half — of which Texas converted into 27 points. One turnover in particular was part of a frenetic sequence from Texas that nearly blew the lid off the Moody Center.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few said in the preseason that he thought his team’s nonconference schedule was the most ambitious he could remember, and Wednesday was just an example of that challenge. It came just five days after surviving a near buzzer-beater on an aircraft carrier against Michigan State and comes ahead of a major Nov. 20 matchup against No. 4 Kentucky.

With the win, Texas ties a program record for its highest-ranked AP opponent defeated; its last win over a No. 2 team in the AP Top 25 came against rival Oklahoma in 2009.

Here are a few more key takeaways from the game.

Texas is… back?

Declaring Texas back in football is an old and tired bit, but Texas basketball might really be back. Chris Beard didn’t have a terrific first season by his own standards; the team went 22-12 and went through some highs and lows. In Year 2, however, he seems to have accumulated a crew that meshes well and fits the style he wants to play. This team can play above the rim with its athleticism, pesters teams on the perimeter with hard-nosed defense and has enough shooting to spread around and make work. I picked them to finish No. 2 in the Big 12, the loftiest prediction among all our hoops crew, and even that right now feels like it may have been an undersell. You don’t want to have too much of a knee-jerk reaction to one result, especially this early in the season, but tonight was an expectation-shifting showing given how well Texas played against such a great opponent.

Gonzaga gets a rare humbling

Gonzaga has lost five or fewer games in each of the last six seasons and mostly dominated otherwise by hilariously lopsided margins. In each of the last four seasons, it has led all of college hoops in scoring margin. For the Zags to lose is a rarity — and to do so in blowout fashion is even rarer. Wednesday’s 19-point loss is their fifth-largest loss by margin since 2010, according to CBB Reference. Only four times in that span have they lost by a larger margin.

Depth a question mark for Zags

When you lose a star like Chet Holmgren and a steady-handed guard like Andrew Nembhard the way Gonzaga did in the offseason, and you’re going to have issues. Period. That escalated quickly, though, for the Zags. They lack the rim protection Holmgren provided around the paint and have been turnover-prone to boot, committing around 17 per game. That ranks slightly better than 300 out of 363 Division I teams. Second-year guard Nolan Hickman is the X-factor who will need to make strides this season for the Zags to meet their ceiling. They have a killer 1-2 with Drew Timme and Julian Strawther, who had 18 points and 13 points, respectively, but a third must emerge as a reliable factor for Gonzaga to really blossom.

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