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10 Observations from the Portland game

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19-0!

NCAA Basketball: Portland at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t pretty last night, but the most important thing is that the Zags seem to have averted a disaster by not losing Nigel Williams-Goss to a significant injury. Here’s what else I took away from last night’s win.

  1. Gonzaga got off to a quick start and led the entire way, but this wasn’t the dominant performance most probably expected, especially considering the fact Portland lost Alec Wintering for the season. Credit should go to Portland for successfully mucking things up and disrupting Gonzaga’s rhythm for most of the night. But, the Zags also just weren’t sharp. Lots of passes seemed to be fumbled and the team just didn’t seem to have its concentration. The most frustrating thing was that Portland seemed to be beating the Zags to every 50/50 ball.
  2. It’s rare to see an opposing team get an uncontested layup against Gonzaga’s defense half-court defense. But, it happened in this game when Jordan Mathews overplayed a ball denial and got beat back door. Usually, there’s a big man near the paint to step up and contest, but Zach Collins was on the perimeter with his man and no one else stepped up.
  3. The Zags got hit with consecutive turnovers on travels in the first half. You never see Gonzaga lose their footwork fundamentals, but in keeping with the theme of the disjointed night, it seemed appropriate that this happened.
  4. It wasn’t all terrible though for the Zags. Gonzaga was a little too in love with the 3 last night, particularly in the first half. But, they had a possession that included over 10 passes to free up Silas Melson for a wide open three which he sank. When the ball moves like that, it puts so much pressure on the defense.
  5. Play of the game was a posterizing dunk from Johnathan Williams. He set it up with a small pump fake at the 3-point line before driving and finishing over Ray Barreno. Now that Williams has put on tape that he can hit an open 3, opposing teams have to respect it and close out hard on him which opens up the blow by drive.
  6. With Killian Tillie in early foul trouble, Mark Few threw in Rui Hachimura for a few minutes in the first half. I’d been hoping that Few would try to work in some of the non-rotation guys for meaningful minutes during this stretch of the WCC schedule in case they’re needed in bigger spots down the road, so this was a welcome sight. There was a moment on a defensive possession during this stretch that may have gone unnoticed, but I really liked seeing Rui communicate with Nigel Williams-Goss about a defensive switch on the perimeter. The coaching staff wants to see progress in his understanding of how to play with his teammates, and attention to detail is a big part of that.
  7. Zach Collins had a rough first shift and actually seemed to be playing like a young freshman. However, he came back later in the game with improved concentration and focus, and showed great activity around the rim.
  8. Przemek Karnowski didn’t get his first points in the paint until early in the second half. I wonder how many times that’s happened in his career in games he has started.
  9. It took the Zags 32 minutes to get two players (Karnowski, Williams-Goss) in double figure scoring, and it stayed that way for the rest of the night. In a season where the Zags have been extremely balanced and seemingly able to get 4+ players in double figures each night, this was probably the biggest indicator that Gonzaga didn’t have its best stuff last night against Portland.
  10. I’m bummed out for Portland’s Alec Wintering who will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, which closes the book on a great collegiate career for Portland’s long-time leading scorer. Wintering has been a great competitor in the WCC for the last 4 years, and will surely be considered one of the best players to ever play for Portland.