Richard Fox mentioned it multiple times on the broadcast, but there couldn't have been a better prescription for what was ailing the Zags than a Division II team coming into Spokane. Gonzaga, after quite the struggle in its past three games, finally pieced together a consistently solid effort, defeating Saint Martin's, 86-50.
It is hard to get too excited or read too much into a game against an overmatched opponent. For the first ten minutes of the game, Saint Martin's did a valiant job of staying right in the thick of things. Realistically, they never had much of a chance, and Gonzaga slowly but surely pulled away. As expected, Gonzaga beat the D-II school by quite a bit.
Instead, what we can focus on are the positives, of which there are many. The Gonzaga backcourt finally shouldered its load of the scoring. Bryan Alberts got the first start of his career and did everything he could to show he deserves more playing time. Alberts finished with 14 points, and was 4-of-5 from behind the arc. Most of all, Alberts demonstrated he was quite aware of his role on the team. He made sure his shots were good, high percentage shots. He played hard-nosed defense. Most of all, he gave Gonzaga a credible outside threat.
Josh Perkins only finished with three points, but he also only attempted four shots. With his shot struggling as it has, it was nice to see Perkins dishing the ball out more and trying to create better opportunities for his teammates over forcing the issue. Most impressively for the young point guard, Perkins finished with eight assists compared to just one turnover and one foul.
Eric McClellan joined in on the fun with nine points and was aggressive on offense all night. He also hit a nice open three pointer in the process. McClellan has now turned in three straight nice efforts on offense and is providing the Zags with a consistent eight to 10 points from the backcourt.
Even Kyle Dranginis got in on the party, breaking out of his shooting slump with a very Dranginis-like night. He finished with eight points of 3-for-3 shooting, five rebounds and one assist. All of this combined to what we all know Gonzaga can play--a balanced inside-out game. Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis did their standard things, each finishing with a double-double and Sabonis leading the Zags with 21 points. But for once, the scoring came from elsewhere.
Again, it is senseless to read too much into this game, but there is nothing wrong with taking away the positives and running with them. The Zags needed an actual tune-up game to work out some kinks and try and get back on the right track. With Tennesee coming up and then WCC play opening, the time to get dead serious is upon us. We will see if Gonzaga is up to the challenge.
Now, let's get to the one negative: Silas Melson for basically the whole first-half. Melson has struggled as of late, quite visibly. He opened up his chance to get on the better path by taking a pull up jumper with close to 25 seconds left in the shot clock. Melson has it in him to be a great scorer, but he also needs to learn how to take better shots. In this game, he once again struggled. It wasn't until the second half that Melson knuckled down and started to piece together a somewhat quality night. He finished the game going 3-of-10 from the floor, but we can focus on the final minutes. He took an open three off an assist and a nice open jumper. Melson has demonstrated his ability to shoot the ball this season. If he can take seven shots instead of 10 to get there, we will be on track. One plus for Melson, he was aggressive on defense, and was able to turn some steals into easy points. At the end of the day, Melson ended his streak of 16-straight missed field goal attempts, so that is a good thing.
Gonzaga now has most of the week off before heading to Seattle to take on Tennessee. Every game from here on out is a must-win game, but it was nice to see a complete effort from the Zags for 40 minutes. That hasn't been the case for much of the season.