Turnovers, poor shooting, and pretty much everything else doomed the Gonzaga Bulldogs in their final non-conference game against San Diego State, 72-70.
Perhaps the writing was on the wall after the narrow overtime win over North Dakota on Saturday, or perhaps it was an extension of the issues that have plagued Gonzaga for much of the season. Either way, the Zags turned in arguably one of their worst efforts of the year.
The Zags finished the game shooting 42 percent from the floor and combined that with 16 turnovers. Josh Perkins, who has had his fair share of turnover prone games, was abysmal, finishing with five points and six turnovers (and a foul out). In fact, there was only a couple of good Gonzaga performances. Rui Hachimura put in some real nice minutes, most importantly on the defensive end. Johnathan Williams was a monster, getting so fired up he landed himself a technical foul. But real quick, let’s enjoy the only good highlights of the game.
JOHNATHAN WILLIAMS WITH THE pic.twitter.com/FUKoaRODoq— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) December 22, 2017
JOHNATHAN WILLIAMS AGAIN pic.twitter.com/00qCfCb2MJ— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) December 22, 2017
Now that we are done with that, we can talk about everything else, which seems to be an extension of poor play the Zags have flirted with for much of the past four to five games. San Diego State came out hot, hitting three pointer after three pointer, and the Zags quickly found themselves in a deep hole.
Much of the first half was spent climbing out of that hole, and switching to the zone had a good effect. Gonzaga finally stopped turning the ball over, and the Aztecs finally started to miss their wide open threes (for a time). The Zags went into halftime trailing by only two, 25-23, despite shooting 33.3 percent from the floor and committing nine turnovers.
Things didn’t get much better in the second half. The zone that was so effective in shutting San Diego State fell apart in a grand fashion. Mark Few was rather reluctant to shift to a different defensive scheme, despite the fact the Aztecs had no issues splicing it. San Diego State finished with a 26-17 free throw advantage in the game, and just played their game plan much better—attack the zone with athleticism.
The Aztecs attacked and made Gonzaga pay. Gonzaga opted to try and get fancy and they paid. Gonzaga made a half-assed mount to try and steal the game out of the clutches of San Diego State, but let’s not lie, the score was never as close it the final indicates. Gonzaga was never in control of this game, and they never played like they wanted to win it.
After posting multiple games with a turnover percentage of over 20, it finally bit the Zags in the rear end. The Zags lost a winnable game here. After a hot start, the Aztecs reverted to the shooting percentages most people expected, and Gonzaga continued to shoot itself in the foot and shoot itself in the foot—this was a team wide debacle.
The Zags missed a resume padding opportunity here. It isn’t the most drastic loss of all time. San Diego State is a good team that could very well end up in the NCAA Tournament, but by all means, Gonzaga should have won this game. They didn’t. Now the conference starts with a sour taste in the mouth. Perhaps this is what this squad needs.