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10 Observations from the Gonzaga-SDSU game

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San Diego State v Gonzaga Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

With the caveat that San Diego State was playing quite short-handed in its second visit to the Kennel, Gonzaga put on a late night show and announced to a national audience that this team has legitimate aspirations for a Final Four run. With that said, there’s a lot of twists and turns to a season. Let’s get on to some of my thoughts from the game:

  1. With a team as active on defense as the Aztecs are, it’s imperative to make quick decisive moves on offense. Johnathan Williams got swallowed up several times when he had to make a “gather” move in the post, particularly when he made a “dribble gather” allowing the defense to collapse on him. One of the coaches probably mentioned something to him because he stopped doing it in the second half but it was an ugly night for him on offense (1-9 FG, 2-6 FT).
  2. It wasn’t pretty early on, but the Zags showed their character by not getting frustrated by the pace of the game and SDSU’s defense. This game will serve them well in the future. Now they know they can grind out possessions and still be successful.
  3. It is beyond a luxury for Mark Few to be able to bring in Zach Collins and Killian Tillie off the bench. They are true impact players and it has to be disheartening for an opposing team when there’s no break in the lineup. No chance for opponents to catch their breath.
  4. Having two point guards the caliber of Nigel Williams-Goss and Josh Perkins makes it much easier to attack a defense like SDSU. A secondary ball handler against a pressure defense relieves a lot of stress. Their respective stat lines don’t indicate an impressive night, but they were a great tandem on both ends of the court.
  5. Malik Pope is such a big loss for SDSU. Their offense is really ugly without him to bail them out.
  6. Switching to the zone defense was a good call. SDSU has a dearth of shooters and the game was lost for them when they were forced to play a perimeter based game.
  7. Gonzaga finally has a strong zone defense! The length and athleticism of the roster from top to bottom gives them a zone that has teeth. Guards did a good job of getting in passing lanes, Zach Collins snagged some entry passes, and they even forced a shot clock violation!
  8. Sticking with the defense, the Tillie/Collins trap is nasty. Daylight disappears quickly for the ball handler.
  9. Energy can be a skill, and Killian Tillie is excellent at it. He was everywhere again during the game and showed he can do a little bit of everything.
  10. I shake my head every time I see a defender fly by a shooter on a closeout. It’s even worse when done against an elite shooter like Jordan Mathews. His run of three consecutive 3s started on a nice pump fake to draw the fly-by. He’ll benefit from the inside-out game all year.