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10 Observations from the Santa Clara game

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Santa Clara v Gonzaga Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Hats off to Santa Clara for hanging in and giving Gonzaga a tough game for 40 minutes. Nothing comes easy in March, especially when tournament bids are on the line.

  1. Gonzaga’s offense work so much better when the ball is going inside early in the clock. The bigs get to control the flow of the offense and the team seems to find its rhythm easier.
  2. On the defensive end, Gonzaga gave up 2 quick threes by not playing as tight on the perimeter as we’ve seen throughout much of the season. The guards went underneath Santa Clara’s screens a few times instead of fighting over, giving the Broncos some airspace to fire away. For a team that relies heavily on the 3-ball, and shoots it well from that distance, the Zags didn’t play that well.
  3. Zach Collins got isolated on the perimeter a few times after getting switched onto guards. He’s so good at moving his feet and has plus agility for a big man that he’s not a liability out there, providing the defense with flexibility to switch on everything without any concern.
  4. With an obvious emphasis on feeding the ball inside, 28 of Gonzaga’s 37 first half points came from inside the paint. The team entered halftime shooting 64% from the field. However, Gonzaga didn’t make a single 3 in the first half, while Santa Clara sank 5-12 attempts from the arc in the first half. While the 3-point disparity kept the game close, I liked Gonzaga’s offensive approach and was happy to see they didn’t start chucking up 3-balls to make up the gap.
  5. Gonzaga got some good rim protection in this game, with Przemek Karnowski in particular showing he has quicker feet than he’s given credit for. He recovered on some Santa Clara drives quickly enough to get two blocks.
  6. It looked like the Zags were going to pull away midway through the second half, but a pair of Jared Brownridge 3’s powered a 10-0 Santa Clara to close the deficit back to 5 points, and it stayed pretty tight the rest of the way. Gonzaga’s defense wasn’t in peak form, but give a lot of credit to the Broncos for making shots in key moments all night long. They took care of the ball (only 5 turnovers), and did enough to prevent Gonzaga from generating momentum.
  7. Speaking of Brownridge, what a great way to finish his brilliant collegiate career. 32 points on 12-25 shooting with 0 turnovers. He finished as Santa Clara’s second all-time leading scorer with 2,313 points and an amazing 129 consecutive starts. I’ll miss seeing him in the WCC next year.
  8. Gonzaga’s own guard, Nigel Williams-Goss, had himself another strong night. He was incredibly deadly with that drifting floater while moving across the left side of the lane. I wasn’t keeping track, but he must have had 10 of his 25 points just off that move.
  9. While the Zags only finished 3-10 from the arc, Nigel and Zach Collins came up big in the final 2 minutes in front of a friendly home crowd for them. Nigel attended high school at Findlay Prep in Vegas, and of course Collins just graduated from Bishop Gorman down the road. I’m sure it was fun for them to get the biggest shots of the night in front of a lot of their friends and family.
  10. Gonzaga is playing in its 20th consecutive WCC Championship game. Let the amazingness of that stat wash over you while you wait for tipoff tonight.