The Gonzaga women's basketball team put on a show Friday night beating Corban 86-31. In this commanding win there were some bright spots, but also some negatives.
First let's take a look at what went wrong in this dominating win. You might be thinking, they won by 55 points, what could have gone wrong? And the answer to that, my friends, is a handful of things. The biggest negatives on the game were ability to run the offense efficiently, free throws, dumb turnovers, fouls, and issues with nerves/lack of confidence among a few players.
For the first time in their careers, Jessie Loera, Corryn Douglas, and Grace Collett took the court in front of over 5,000 fans, and it showed. When each made their first appearance, you could tell they were nervous. From not recognizing the opposing teams defensive set to missing layups to turnovers, these three had a rough start, but things got better for them the longer they played. Collett looked more comfortable than she did in Fan Fest, but still has a long way to go. Look for her to grow and develop as a player as the season goes on. Makenlee Williams was less productive than expected, only scoring two points in the game. As one of the best three point shooters not only on the team, but in the league, it was shocking to see Williams miss all four of her attempts. Hopefully as the season goes on we will see these shots drop for her.
While the Zags did not foul a ton in the game, a handful of the fouls that they did have were dumb. Having two hands on the offensive player, trying to block a shot and swinging their arms, and reaching, all on the dumb side when fouls are considered, but all easily fixed.
Dumb turnovers were definitely an issue for the Zags, with too many missed passes, balls thrown away, and travels. Given that this was the first game of the season, I am going to assume that the large numbers of these turnovers could possibly be due to the fact that the players were excited to get back on the court and were moving too fast at times.
Free throws are stressed as one of the most important parts of the game. They are simply free points, and the Zags did not take advantage of these points tonight. Barta who was ninety one percent from the stripe last season missed two in the game, and Kudron also missed two. While the Zags only took thirteen free throws, they only made nine of them. Later on in the season this could make or break a game.
And perhaps the biggest issue for the Zags was the lack of consistency when running the offense. Yes they scored 86 points, but people were running into each other while running plays, running plays wrong, not running plays all the way through, and running plays designed for a man defense against a zone. This said, it was the first game, and the first time many of these players have played together in a game situation. Look for these plays to be mastered in the next month or two, and by the time league comes around things should be running smoothly.
Now to look at the positives: Defense, Confidence, and THE BIG THREE.
The Zags defense was huge in this win. Not only was everyone on the same page when it came to the defensive side of the game, but the defense was key in getting the offense going. Combined, the Zags managed to tally fifteen steals on the night, which is way more than was expected. They also managed to hold Corban to just three points in the third quarter and ten points in the second half. With this staunch defense, Corban averaged less than ten points per quarter. Considering head coach Lisa Fortier stresses the defensive end of the game, look for this to only get better from here.
Confidence was huge in this win. I talked about Jessie Loera having a rough start to the game, looking frazzled and confused, but she quickly settled in and was very impressive. She finished the game with six points, however, this is not what impressed me. Once she was settled into the game, she was very composed and her ball control is superb. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Loera is her court vision. She was seeing players and passing lanes that would be hard for most people to see, and her passing to these players was spot on. Another player that looked extremely confident was Laura Stockton. Stockton stepped into the starting point guard role for the first time, and she embraced it. She was calling plays and running the offense well, as well as hustling after loose balls and making great passes to her teammates. She finished the game with ten points, five assists, three steals, and no turnovers.
And finally THE BIG THREE, also known as Jill Barta, Elle Tinkle, and Kiara Kudron. Barta came out firing and scored the first six points of the game, as well as eleven of the Zags first thirteen points. She also had no turnovers, and only two fouls today (much better than her five in Fan Fest). Elle Tinkle was finally back on the court after sitting out most of last season with a knee injury, and she started off right where she left off a year ago. Tinkle brought a different type of energy to the game, and despite having injured her knee a year ago, she was fearless. The most impressive part about Tinkle in this game was her willingness to throw her body around and motivate her team. And Kiara Kudron finally looked healthy after battling injuries throughout last season, although she did have a black eye. She looked very confident, and was throwing her body around down low. At the end of the day, these three combined for thirty seven points, six more points than Corban scored as a team. The confidence of these three is going to be a huge key to the Zags success this season.
The team has a lot going for them this season and seem to be on a mission already. Look for them to bounce back from a disappointing season last year and make a run this year.