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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win in the WCC final

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32-1

NCAA Basketball: West Coast Conference Tournament-Gonzaga vs Saint Mary's Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

They say it’s really hard to beat the same team three times in one season, but I guess that sentiment doesn’t apply to the Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s “rivalry.”

  1. Gonzaga’s athletic advantage on the perimeter was readily apparent from the start of the game. Nigel Williams-Goss started things off with a quick block and steal, Josh Perkins hit a tough fallaway 3-pointer, and on the other side Joe Rahon got stuffed at the rim twice in Saint Mary’s opening possessions. Gonzaga’s dominance over SMC’s guards has really been the separating factor in all three games this season.
  2. Attention to detail is how you go 32-1. Josh Perkins positioned himself to deflect some SMC passes, and Nigel Williams-Goss demonstrated good fundamentals in boxing out Jock Landale to tip a rebound away and secure the loose ball. Those are the minor details that go into winning.
  3. Gonzaga’s defensive intensity and aggressiveness on the offensive end was a welcome change from the first two games of the WCC Tournament. The defense swarmed the Gaels in the first half and prevented SMC from getting any penetration to generate open looks. Gonzaga’s willingness to push the tempo and create quasi-transition opportunities prevented SMC from settling into its defense and opened up easy opportunities for layups and dunks.
  4. SMC’s offensive droughts seemed to always coincide with Jock Landale going to the bench (foul trouble, shocker). While the Zags had their own offensive droughts in this game, they weren’t as pronounced as SMC’s because they have multiple players to turn to. SMC has been unable to find a reliable second or third scorer against Gonzaga when Landale isn’t available.
  5. Gonzaga’s defense was at its best over a 6-minute stretch in the first half which saw the Gaels go 0-10 from the field. The Zags were able to extend their lead to 31-13 during that time, and helped them secure a 21-point halftime advantage. The Zags forced SMC to turn the ball over 10 times in the first half, which is very out of character for the Gaels, and is a good indicator for how much Gonzaga’s defense troubled them.
  6. Jock Landale stuck to the same script as the first two games in terms of his foul situation. He found himself in foul trouble in the first half which forced him to sit on the bench more than SMC could afford, then picked up a cheap third foul within the first 40 seconds of the second half. His fourth foul came while SMC was making its big push to get back into the game, and while he didn’t foul out, the foul situation certainly affected how aggressive he could play for the remainder of the game.
  7. The first 10 minutes of the second half saw SMC make its big run to get back into the game. Gonzaga’s defensive intensity didn’t match the first half effort, and three quick 3s from the Gaels helped them shrink the deficit rapidly. SMC was really effective with its off-ball screens which freed up shooters for open 3s several times, and opened the backdoor lanes when the Zags started to shoot the gaps.
  8. Gonzaga’s offense got out of sync early in the second half, and there were several possessions when it seemed like they were trying to make spectacular/difficult plays rather than be patient and look for an easier shot. Give the opposing team credit for disrupting the offensive rhythm, but it’s important to stick with what built the lead in the first place and stay true to the offensive system.
  9. Przemek Karnowski was dominant in the paint on both ends of the floor. Once again, he showed more quickness than people give him credit for by locking down the paint and protecting the rim on several SMC drives. He finished the game with 4 blocks, and was also a real presence on the glass.
  10. The Zags scored 10 points in 1:05 thanks to three consecutive and-1 plays that turned a tight 55-48 game into a 65-48 route. Karnowski missed the free throw on his and-1, but Zach Collins cleaned up the miss with a putback to give the Zags 4 points off that possession. Nigel Williams-Goss and Silas Melson then followed up with their own plays to put the Gaels away for good. That was fun.