Throughout the entire summer, Gonzaga's frontcourt was touted as possibly being one of the best in the country. On paper, there are few frontlines with more size and athleticism than the one Mark Few has assembled. One thing we discussed, however, was that there would be a steep learning curve for them. San Diego State proved that tonight as they came into the McCarthey Athletic Center and simply outworked and outmuscled Gonzaga from the opening tip to snag a 79-76 win.
First of all, if you are looking for a "Oh my God, the sky is falling" recap, I suggest looking elsewhere. Gonzaga has now lost five games in the MAC since 2004. This is the first time I have thought the opposing team was the better team. Not saying that the 2010-11 Aztecs are better than the 2010-11 Zags, but as of November 16th, they are the better team. What I saw tonight from Kawhi Leonard and Billy White were two guys that would not let their team lose the game. Gonzaga had one guy that was doing everything he could be pull out a win but, in the end, it simply wasn't enough to offset what San Diego State brought to the table.
read more after the jump....
There isn't a whole lot to say after a loss like this. In previous year's, some teams have just waltzed into the MAC, shot lights out from beyond the arc, and stunned Gonzaga. Tonight, San Diego State had no designs on launching up bombs from deep. Instead, they ran their offense, passed the ball brilliantly in the post, and capitalized on Gonzaga's mistakes. It really was as simple as that.
Gonzaga's mistakes were similarly simple. It boils down to rebounding. With a team that starts a pair of seven-footers and brings a 6'10'' guy off the bench, you are going to have a hard time ever convincing me that Gonzaga should lose the battle on the boards. Tonight, the Aztecs absolutely abused Gonzaga. Unofficially, the margin was 33-26 in favor of SDSU but I feel that official number will increase the margin. The stat that really hurts is that San Diego State got 18 offensive boards to the Zags' 8. For a team with this type of size, that kind of execution is utterly inexcusable. Gonzaga was ball-watching while SDSU was attacking the glass and it literally decided the game.
Two positives from this game. First, Steven Gray. One of the better individual performances I've seen in a Gonzaga uniform this side of Adam Morrison. Like I said in the opening, Gray put this team on his back. Unfortunately, there was no one there to give him a hand down the stretch. 35 points is simply remarkable for the kind of pressure he faced all night. Second positive, it is November 16th...well now 17th. This is a good Gonzaga team that must do some soul-searching and find some confidence and toughness on the court. I was stunned by how many times Steven had to do everything out there while the rest of the team simply stood around and watched.
Piggybacking on this, the scary thing is that they don't have a lot of time to figure this out. With Kansas State, Marquette/Duke, Illinois, WSU, Notre Dame, Baylor, and Xavier all before Christmas, tonight's performance could spark something in this team or it could snowball. We'll find out in the coming weeks what kind of makeup this team has.