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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s stinker in San Diego

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10-3

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at San Diego State Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

I’m still extremely annoyed about how this game went down. I hope this game tape is played on a loop in the film room, and on the brand new jumbotron during practice, so no one can escape the ignominy of this defeat.

  1. A performance like this one was coming. After a close call against North Dakota, and a 30 point win that still had plenty of warts against the school that robbed Wheel of Fortune of all its vowels, Gonzaga had its reckoning. In four of the last 5 games, Gonzaga has posted turnover numbers of 19, 17, 17, and 16 against SDSU. Excuse me while I vomit again. A team that doesn’t value the ball is a team that won’t be playing long in March.
  2. I don’t understand why Mark Few shortened the rotation in the second half. Jacob Larsen made an impact in the first half in a stretch where Gonzaga looked its best all night, but then he didn’t see the floor at all in the second half. What possible reason could there be to not play him even a few minutes while the Zags continued to flounder? The fact that Killian Tillie was in foul trouble for the entire second half made his disappearance even more perplexing. The coaching staff blew this one.
  3. Gonzaga’s mostly been out of sync since Corey Kispert sprained his ankle (outside of the Washington game). In his place, Zach Norvell has filled in more than capably and has probably been Gonzaga’s best player over that stretch, so it’s understandable that he has maintained his place in the starting lineup. After sitting out two games, Kispert has made brief cameos here and there, but hasn’t had the chance to get back in rhythm or reintegrate himself into the flow of the offense/defense. If he’s not healthy enough to play more minutes, why even risk him at all for these short stints? If he is healthier than the coaching staff has been using him over the last week indicates, then the rotation has been completely mishandled. He was a great glue piece before his injury and stabilized the rotation while providing balance on the floor. We have to get back to that.
  4. The biggest failure of the non-conference slate is not this loss, though it’s close. Rather, the failure to develop a viable backup point guard behind Josh Perkins could really bite this team in the rear end come tournament time. Perkins has played some really strong basketball this season, but he was absolutely terrible against SDSU, and he’d be the first to admit it. The fact that he had to stay in the game when it was obvious he wasn’t going to pull out of his funk—because we don’t have a viable backup PG—is problematic to say the least. He could have used an extended period on the bench to mentally reset, but the team couldn’t afford it.
  5. When I previewed the non-conference schedule at the start of the season, I highlighted this game as a potential “trap game.” It had all the makings for one—third game in five days; on the road at the end of the non-con schedule; midst of Christmas break and right before a one week layoff. But the problem wasn’t energy or effort level, it was simply playing fundamental, smart basketball. This was probably the 40 worst minutes of basketball I’ve seen Gonzaga play in many years.
  6. Give San Diego State credit for its defense. The Zags have not handled strong, pressure defense well this season. The Aztecs played high pressure man-to-man defense that give Gonzaga fits all night long (obviously). SDSU would extend its on-ball pressure well above the free throw long, which made entry passes much more difficult and stressed the guards for the entirety of the game. This begat all the errant passes as the guards rushed to get the ball out of their hands in ill-advised half-chances.
  7. When he was on the floor, Jacob Larsen did a nice job quarterbacking the zone defense from his position at its center. You could see him directing Rui back to the corner to cover a shooter after he had extended up to the wing. Great sign that the young center is growing in confidence, and bodes well for the future.
  8. Gonzaga repeatedly bailed out the Aztecs over the last few minutes of the game by sending them to the free throw line instead of forcing them (a poor shooting team) to make shots. What a gift.
  9. Out of the 16 turnovers, I’d estimate that 12-13 of them were unforced errors. Time and time again, the Zags shot themselves in the foot when the game was ripe for the taking.
  10. That sucked.