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10 Observations from the Gonzaga-Texas Southern game

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NCAA Basketball: Texas Southern at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

A new group of Zags and a sweet new jumbotron made their official Kennel debuts last night. What else did we take away from Gonzaga’s 28-point win over Texas Southern?

  1. Zach Norvell and Rui Hachimura seemed like they were the obvious candidates for the only available starting job, but Corey Kispert showcased why he won the gig in a strong debut. The coaching staff clearly trusts him to execute his responsibilities on both ends of the floor, and he rewarded that trust by consistently making the right decisions. He did a good job playing off ball screens and creating passing lanes when spotting up. He also made the right reads passing the rock and already seems to be totally comfortable in the offense. On the defensive end, he was active, rebounded his position well, and knew where he needed to slide over to provide proper help defense. His tip-in dunk was a great way to get his first career points (there will be many more to come). With all that said, it was weird to see anyone other than Przemek wearing #24. Don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that.
  2. I was hoping that Johnathan Williams III would soften his shooting touch from the free throw line during the offseason. However, he still has that catapult/slingshot touch and finished 5-9 from the line.
  3. It will be interesting to watch how the coaching staff helps out Williams and Tillie with the interior defense. They didn’t have many issues against Texas Southern, but I do think the Zags are going to struggle against teams that have legitimate post players. There aren’t too many of those guys around anymore, but one of them happens to be in our conference.
  4. Related to point #3, the defense played a little more compact to protect the paint than it has in years past. This obviously created more space on the perimeter and there were several possessions were the D was scrambling to recover (constantly trying to shoot the gaps on wing passes didn’t help either). Gonzaga no longer has the luxury of never having to double inside now that Przemek (and Zach Collins) is gone, so Jacob Larsen will need to speed up his development to shore up what could be Gonzaga’s biggest weakness.
  5. Gonzaga won the battle of the boards by quite a margin (57-35). While the Zags don’t quite have the overwhelmingly large frontcourt anymore, there’s still plenty of length and athleticism up and down the lineup to make up for it. Even the guards are pretty adept at grabbing boards, with Melson and Norvell combining for nine rebounds.
  6. 11 turnovers in the first half was not great, especially against Texas Southern, but I think part of that can be attributed to the pace the offense was playing. This team is going to be best getting up and down and pushing the ball, and that style of play tends to lend itself to a few more turnovers. So long as the offense is playing aggressively, rather than recklessly, it’s something I can live with.
  7. It was great to see Josh Perkins hunting his shots in the first half. There were too many games last year where he played passively on the offensive end of the floor. He shot himself into a rhythm early in the game and it helped set the tone for the rest of the night. He can be one of the best shooters in the country as long as he maintains his confidence.
  8. I did not like the lineup of Silas, Norvell, Rui, Williams, and Larsen. The pieces didn’t really fit together and the offense got disjointed when that group was on the floor. I’d give it a few more looks in the next two games, but it’s certainly not a combination I’d be committed to if I were Mark Few.
  9. I’m glad Jeremy Jones and Jesse Wade were able to shake off their preseason injury concerns. Jones made a nice play driving to the basket from the top of the arc, and his length can certainly be disruptive on the defensive end. The coaching staff wants Wade to have a role, so hopefully the worst of the shoulder problems are behind him and he can work his way into the rotation.
  10. Rui having a contingent of Japanese media following him around is not a possibility I even considered going into the season. He’s probably a bigger deal in the Japanese sports landscape than we realize, and it will be interesting to see if they will be a constant presence and if that scrutiny will wear on him as the season progresses.