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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Pacific

Reduced turnovers and strong defense is a pretty good formula for a win.

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

The first half was bleh, but the second half was what we’ve wanted to see over the last few weeks. The Zags took care of the ball and played strong defense. That combo almost always leads to a win.

  1. Rui Hachimura had a really strong game that felt like it flew under the radar. On one possession he made a strong spin move on the baseline to get from his post-up to a reverse layup, and on another possession he won deep position in the paint and then effectively sealed off his defender who was fronting the entry pass to give himself an easy layup in a high-low action. He’s also established himself as the team’s best free throw shooter (31-33, 93.9 FT% for the season).
  2. It was important that Josh Perkins got himself started on the right foot in this game after a tough night in San Diego. He did, going on a personal 8-0 run midway through the first half with a pair of threes and a fast break layup after notching a steal. He showed no hesitation from the arc (4-8) and most importantly, had zero turnovers.
  3. Even though he had a fairly ineffective night on offense, Johnathan Williams still made himself a key presence on the defensive end. Picking up three blocks in the first four minutes is pretty ridiculous, and set the tone defensively for the remainder of the game.
  4. I’m not concerned at all by Kispert’s 2-8 performance from the arc. He needs to shake the rust off and find his shooting stroke after very limited minutes over the last four weeks. His 19 minutes was the most he’s played since the game against Texas at PK80, and he was starting to dial it in towards the end of the game. His return to health is a huge boost for Gonzaga.
  5. Related to #4, Gonzaga’s offense has struggled mightily over the last month without another consistent shooter (Norvell’s heaters don’t count, he’s shooting 35% from the arc) to space the floor alongside Perkins. Tillie and Melson are shooting 34% and 32% respectively from distance, so a return to form for Kispert will really create balance on the floor and free up some more room inside for Williams, Tillie, Rui, and Larsen.
  6. Pacific is not a team that takes and makes a lot of 3’s. The fact that the Tigers didn’t make a three until the 17-minute mark of the second half is indicative of why they couldn’t capitalize on Gonzaga’s slow first half. As a team that doesn’t have a lot of size in the frontcourt, I don’t see a winning formula for them if they continue to be that poor from the three-point line.
  7. Jesse Wade saw the floor in the first half in a rare opportunity to play non-garbage time minutes. While he had a quiet stint on the floor, he didn’t hesitate to take his shots within the flow of the offense, and the fact that Few put him out there at all during that point in the game was an encouraging sign. His defense certainly needs work, and he wasn’t tasked with orchestrating the offense, but the best way to learn is by playing.
  8. I need more Jacob Larsen. He can handle a bigger role.
  9. Congrats to manager-turned-walkon Brian Pete on making his NCAA debut. I’m sure that was a thrill, and it’s always cool to see the team reward a behind-the-scenes contributor to the program. Now he can tell his kids he played D1 basketball for Gonzaga University. The next step for him is to chuck up an ill-advised shot whenever he sees the floor next.
  10. The ball security was much better in this game, with Gonzaga clearly making an effort to be more mindful of not giving away sloppy passes. The challenge for Gonzaga now is not to lose its edge on offense while being more careful with the ball. It's possible to run a high-octane, aggressive offense without being reckless. This team is capable of playing smart while still being aggressive.