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10 Observations from the Santa Clara game

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18-0!

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Santa Clara
Foul.
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry this is coming a little late today. But, better late than never. Most importantly, the Zags are still undefeated!

  1. It was pretty evident from the outset of the game that Gonzaga was going to have its way inside against Santa Clara’s frontcourt. Early in the first half, Przemek Karnowski backed his man down all the way from the corner 3 spot to inside the restricted circle before converting a simply baby hook. Przemek could have easily scored 30+ points against the Broncos overwhelmed interior defense. Alas, the Zags only needed him to chip in 19 points on 7 shot attempts.
  2. Continuing with the theme of Gonzaga’s dominance in size and athleticism over the Broncos, there were no issues on the boards tonight as the Zags nearly doubled Santa Clara’s rebounding total at 42-23. The Zags have definitely improved their work on the glass in the last few weeks, as they are noticeable more aggressive identifying a man to box out when a shot goes up.
  3. We saw some really nice entry passes from Killian Tillie to Zach Collins in their high-lo game. Tillie had a particularly nice pass with soft touch from the 3-point line to Collins deep in the paint. Those two are going to cause some damage together as their chemistry continues to evolve.
  4. Silas Melson has some quick hands on defense. Matt Hauser made the mistake of showing him the ball while dribbling at the top of the arc, and Melson pounced and forced a jump ball. Melson also got away with a double dribble in this game...sometimes it pays to have quick hands.
  5. Gonzaga strung together some absolutely stifling defensive possessions in the first half. Santa Clara went on a 7 minute field goal drought, and shot at least 6 air balls in the first half.
  6. Amusing moment late in the first half after Jordan Mathews made a contested layup in transition. Mathews fell down after the layup, and Collins was trailing closely behind. You could see Collins quickly look down at Mathews as he was confronted with the difficult decision to help his teammate up or get back on defense. He chose the latter, and scampered back down the court to get into defensive position.
  7. There was a point in the second half where only 3 Santa Clara players had scored in the game. Don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. The Broncos are definitely playing better under Herb Sendek, but they need to find an heir apparent for Jared Brownridge on the offensive end. Brownridge was terrific against the Zags with 23 points on 8-16 shooting, but he’ll be gone after this season and someone will have to shoot the ball for them.
  8. Credit to the Santa Clara student section for showing up and trying to be a presence for their team. But, the curtain of distraction bit was pretty unoriginal and ripped off from the ASU student section. Also, it wasn’t effective as the Zags shot 78.6% (22-28) from the free throw line, which is above their season average (74.3%).
  9. Gonzaga had a drought of its own in the second half, going 5 minutes without making a field goal. The Zags kind of got away from playing through the post, as they only had 4 points in the paint in the second half by the time the drought ended at the 10-minute mark, compared to 28 points in the paint in the first half. It was no surprise that Gonzaga stretched the lead back to 20+ points following a flurry of baskets from Karnowski. Zach Collins finished Santa Clara off, closing out the game with a very efficient 16 points (4-6 FG, 8-8 FT) in 16 minutes.
  10. Your Gonzaga Bulldogs are now the #1 ranked team in the KenPom rankings, which are probably the most respected rankings in college sports. The Zags are ranked in the top 5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and their KenPom team page is so beautiful that it’s enough to make a grown man cry.