I remember after Gonzaga lost to San Francisco I was ready to kiss playing in Spokane for the NCAA Tournament goodbye. I was blogging, tweeting, facebooking, and whatever else-ing my depression about that loss. Obviously I spoke well too soon but this loss to Loyola Marymount might be the straw the broke Spokane's back. Gonzaga's 74-66 upset loss tonight to the Lions came at a time when most fans thought the team was invincible. Just like the USF loss, the Zags were getting praise from everywhere. They were back in the top 10, had beat all their "toughest conference competition" (again) and were poised for a high seed in the Spokane sub-region.
Once again, it's time to come back to Earth.
Another top 10, another terrible California road team, another loss. It's hard to point to a lot of positives from this one because our stars played terrible and the guys that actually played well weren't really given a full shot to shine by the coaching staff. Long story short, it was an awful game on every level.
read on after the jump for more postgame thoughts...
In games like these, where your star players aren't performing up to the task, it falls to your coaching staff to make the proper adjustments to bail them out. Tonight was one of Matt Bouldin's worst games in a long time. His shots were off, forced, and many weren't even close. Same could be said for Steven Gray and Elias Harris continues to just get hammered by opposing teams with little help. It's obvious that Few recognized this and was scrambling. Two guys stood out off the bench in the first half: Mangisto Arop and Will Foster. They both looked great in limited minutes but in the second half, they virtually disappeared. Another player that looked good early was Demetri Goodson. He scored the ball well, made good decisions, and was largely effective. He also sat for a good portion of the second half.
During this time, our staff was fiddling with weird rotations of players in the first and second halves that just failed. It was almost like we were playing our young players just to try and keep LMU in the game. G.J. Vilarino had one or two nice moments but just continues to whisper through his freshman year, Kelly was decent, and Robert Sacre was utterly abysmal. For the life of me I just can't figure out why Will Foster did not see more time in the second half. Rob was soft, lazy, and completely checked out of the game early and it continued all the rest of the way. It's hard for me to say this but a lineup of Meech, Matt, Manny, Elias, and Will may have been our best bet. Even with Matt struggling, it's hard for me to justify pulling him out.
Instead we played Bol Kong who once again just looked a bit scared or a step slow. Then we played Will for like two or three minutes and pulled him after he made one mistake and then we entered Manny to round out the game. The rotation was just odd, uninspired, and flat from the coaching staff.
During the past few games, EDZ and I have talked about how deep Gonzaga is. I really do fear a deep rotation because I don't think a lot of coaches can handle that kind of personnel. We've seen it at Texas, we've seen it at times with Kansas, and we've seen it in years past. A deep rotation can lead to brainless substitutions and sluggish performance and that is exactly what happened. Our best two subs for the past few games have without a doubt been Manny and Will. They've changed the pace of games, affected other teams offensive plan, and have provided energy. I don't know why they are getting lost in the shuffle at times but tonight just didn't make sense to me. I understand Mark Few is a great, hall-of-fame coach but tonight was a terrible effort.
Just because this rant was mainly directed at the coaches, it doesn't mean the players are off the hook. Matt, Steven, Rob, and at times Elias just didn't show up or show any kind of urgency. The guards especially missed a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot, A LOT of open looks. Rob rebounded well but I guess we now know that scoring+rebounding aren't attainable for Rob in one game.
As far as long term projections go, I'll have to wait until I'm thinking a bit more level-headed. They're now behind the eight ball though. The Zags have four regular season games left. No team they play will give them much credibility. They're next opportunity for a decent win will come in Las Vegas for the WCC Tournament but who knows what can happen from now until then.
This one's hard to swallow.