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2017 NCAA Tournament: Ten Observations from Gonzaga’s win over South Dakota State

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Gonzaga vs South Dakota State Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

After a truly wretched first half, the second half was the Gonzaga we needed to see to calm our queasy stomachs. Here are a few more well thought out takeaways from the game:

  1. If Gonzaga had hit any sort of shot in the beginning of this game, the rest of the contest would have been drastically different. South Dakota State’s defensive scheme was literally packing as many people in the post as possible and forcing the Zags to make outside shots.
  1. Gonzaga didn’t, and they couldn’t hit any of their outside shots as well. This defensive plan made it impossible for Przemek Karnowski to move around, and it really kept South Dakota State in the game much longer than they should have lingered. The moment Gonzaga started hitting shots, SDSU was forced to go to a more normal man-to-man defense, and then the game was coasting nicely along.
  2. You know something is going on at the free throw line when Nigel Williams-Goss misses one. He is shooting 91 percent from the charity stripe there. Again, the Zags struggled from the free throw line, especially Josh Perkins, who was 1-of-5. Perkins looked visibly frustrated, which is understandable. He normally hits them at a better rate.
  3. A lot of the players looked frustrated that their shots weren’t falling. Gonzaga wasn’t necessarily taking bad shots by any means, they just weren’t landing where they needed to. People like to pile on Perkins as if he was the only one who had a rough game shooting. NWG shot 4-of-13. Williams was 3-of-8. Jordan Mathews was 5-of-11 (but 3-of-9 from deep, Perkins was 3-of-11, and Melson was 1-of-4. Seriously, this whole team struggled mightily in the first half.
  4. Once Williams stopped hanging around the perimeter and went to pound it down low in the second half, the momentum shifted. Williams had an off shooting night, but he made up for it on the rebounding end. He finished with five offensive rebounds and nine defensive rebounds. The second chance points were absolutely necessary in jump starting this team into action.
  5. Not enough can be said about how well Zach Collins played in this game. He was the spark the Zags needed all over the court, finishing with 10 points, six rebounds and three blocks. The big stat, however, is he played more minutes than Karnowski. Give credit to Mark Few here. Few could tell that Karnowski’s abilities were severely hampered by SDSU’s defensive approach, and swapping out Collins for Karnowski rendered that five man on Karno scheme absolutely useless. Collins first NCAA game was a big step into showing what how skilled of a player he is.
  6. The reason Gonzaga won this game was because of their defense. South Dakota State can’t play a lick of defense according to most metrics, but the offense is still pretty good. Mike Daum is the second leading scorer in the nation, and he was held to 17 points off of 7-of-16 shooting (and four turnovers). Reed Tellinghuisen, who is second on the team in three pointers made, was 1-of-10 from long range. Michael Orris finished with more turnovers than assists. The defense kept Gonzaga in it despite the fact they couldn’t hit a shot to save their life. In the second half, the defense is what spurred the tempo shift to allow the Zags to pull ahead.
  7. It isn’t much of a surprise, but until the Zags are going to get into a more favorable arena location, they need to consider their upcoming game against Northwestern as a road game. There weren’t too many loud Gonzaga fans in Salt Lake City, and considering Northwestern is now a grand 1-0 in the NCAA Tournament in school history, I doubt that will change much.
  8. If you take out the first 10 minutes of this game, for the most part, we wouldn’t be having a lot of these conversations. The Zags outscored the Jackrabbits 54-31 in the final 30 minutes of play. So what to make of those first 10 minutes? I think cobwebs might have a bit to deal with it. The Zags closed this game out exactly how they have won games all season, so I don’t think there should be much to worry about heading into Saturday.
  9. One way you can tell the offense was just chunking right along on square wheels is through the assists total. Normally, the Zags to a fantastic job of sharing the ball. They finished with eight assists, which ties for the lowest total this season. The Zags also only had eight assists against (you guessed it) BYU.
  10. Killian Tillie only got six minutes in the game. It looks like the NCAA Tournament rotation has tightened down to seven. Tillie is going to need some high energy, high powered minutes to be able to secure more going forward, but I wouldn’t expect to see him play more than 10 minutes per game for the rest of the tournament.