Despite the best efforts of tryptophan, most of us were still conscious by the time THE Gonzaga Bulldogs tipped off against Ohio State. For those that didn’t make it, here’s what I took away from the opener at the PK80 Invitational:
- No curse in these black jerseys.
- I wonder when word is going to get out that Josh Perkins is one of the best 3-point shooters in the country, as he hit several treys from beyond NBA distance en route to a 6-9 performance from long distance (20 points total). Ohio State tried closing him out, but learned the hard way that he can’t be given any kind of daylight on the perimeter.
- Killian Tillie gave up up several pounds of turkeys to Ohio State’s hefty freshman, Kaleb Wesson, but impressed me with his fight. Wesson pushed Tillie off his spot a few times on either end but Tillie didn’t back down and continuously fought for position. Most importantly, Tillie didn’t allow Wesson to simply bludgeon him all night. He did a good job getting low and anchoring has base to fight off Wesson, then used his agility and length to crowd and contest Wesson.
- Even though the scouting report suggested that Ohio State wasn’t great at shooting threes (28.4%), still have to pressure them early on the perimeter to make sure they don’t get into any kind of rhythm. With that said, the Buckeyes started the game 5-7 from three in the first half but still trailed by 13 points at the break. Once the long-distance shooting cooled off (1-13 rest of the way), it was lights out. The Zags have gotten away with giving up some freebies on the perimeter over the last two games, but can’t afford to do so against the likes of Florida.
- Gonzaga played a lot of its hybrid 2-3 zone and it really flummoxed the Buckeyes, particularly in the first half (Exhibit A: Ohio State was scoreless for the last 7:48 of the first half). Gonzaga’s length and good use of active hands in the passing lanes produced several steals and suffocated Ohio State. The Zags have primarily been a man-defense time over the last few years but the zone has been very effective against Utah State and Ohio State.
- On the flipside, the Zags attacked Ohio State’s zone with ease in the first, using decisive ball movement to get into the heart of the defense and generate good looks at the rim. Once the Buckeyes started to make a concerted effort to cutoff the direct entry passes to the bigs, the guards did a great job of mixing in more side ball screens to get the ball into the paint.
- The increased level of Gonzaga’s overall athleticism was really apparent on a run-of-the-mill fast break off a turnover late in the first half. The swarming zone forced another turnover and Silas Melson quickly got the ball up court to Zach Norvell. Ohio State did a good job of getting back in transition and contesting Norvell’s layup attempt, but both Williams and Rui Hachimura were there to clean up at the rim.
- Keita Bates-Diop has been Ohio State’s go-to offensive weapon throughout the season (averaged 19.3ppg going into the game), but he got locked down by Gonzaga’s stable of big wings who were able to match his length and athleticism. A few years ago the Zags would have had trouble matching up with a guy like Bates-Diop who stands 6’7” and 235lbs. Now, they have multiple solutions.
- Corey Kispert had zero impact on the game in the first half because of foul trouble but he didn’t let it get to him. Instead, he came out in the second half and immediately scored eight points including a pair of 3’s in under two minutes. Great sign of maturity from the freshman. He scored all his points in the final 20 minutes and has reached double figures in all four games this season.
- Johnathan Williams’s footwork on offense was a mess at times. He got himself stuck on the baseline on several occasions without a viable exit plan, and ended up with 6 turnovers which you don’t expect from him. Alls well that ends well, though, as he finished with 21 points on 8-10 shooting including a 3-minute stretch late in the second half where he scored 10 straight points for Gonzaga.
Bring on the Gators (tip-off at approximately 8pm PT).