It was never in doubt who looked like the nationally ranked team, or who had the length between the two teams. And ultimately, the Zags only needed 25 good minutes of basketball to beat the Quinnipiac Bobcats 82-62.
Gonzaga depended heavily on their front court matchups, with Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins both having a good four inches on their opponents. But it was Johnathan Williams III that really helped push the Zags out of their first half slump with 13 points off of an efficient 6-7 shooting.
The Gonzaga offense lumbered throughout the first half much like those watching the game after seconds, thirds or—hell—fourths. After missing their first seven perimeter shots, Josh Perkins knocked down a three with 4:05 left in the first half, the only one they’d make in the first 20 minutes of action. But slowly and surely, the Zags offense started finding a little rhythm and held a substantial double-digit lead throughout the second half.
Perhaps the major wake-up moment came with 4:20 left in the first half, when Killian Tillie broke up a pass and went coast-to-coast for a flying dunk. Tillie and Zach Collins have been outstanding in each game we’ve seen early in their freshman seasons.
The back court struggled offensively, shooting 35% and unable to really take advantage of the Bobcats double-teaming Karnowski throughout the game. Though cold for nearly 30 minutes, Jordan Mathews hit two crucial three pointers back to back at the 12:01 and 11:31 marks of the second half.
In a positive note, Karnowski showcased his high level passing skill throughout the game. After adeptly knocking down two interior lay-ups and bunnies at the start of the game, coach Tom Moore had his undersized forwards and guards fall into double teams to try and minimize the big’s damage.
Nigel Williams-Goss also showcased his versatility, as he added 8 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds to ultimately a full cast win. Collins tied Williams for lead scorer with 13 of his own, and Mathews and Perkins scored 10 a piece.
What is really telling, and has seemed to be the narrative of the season, is how deep and well-rounded this Gonzaga team is. Eight guys played major minutes, with all of them scoring at least 8 points. Gonzaga punished Quinnipiac at the free throw line, shooting an early season best 85.7%
Gonzaga struggled shooting inside (44%) and out (27%), but the most glaring part of this somewhat underwhelming 20 point win is no doubt the 15 turnovers committed. 11 of those 15 came from the back court, which is not going to get it done against a higher level of competition. The Zags felt out of sync for most of the game.
But the subpar performance also highlights just how versatile this team is. While committing 15 turnovers and playing well below-average from behind the arc, Gonzaga did what they had to do given their obvious advantage inside. Gonzaga out-rebounded the Bobcats 48-31, with 15 offensive rebounds.
It’s hard to be too negative on the first road game this team with three transfers and two freshmen playing starter and major minutes, played on a weirdly paced holiday. Gonzaga will have to improve their ball handling and shooting if they want to be the team they’re capable of being. Though middling play leading to 20 point wins isn’t the worst result you could ask for. We’ll learn a lot more about this team by the end of the weekend.