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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Portland


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

Gonzaga’s offense continues to enjoy facing WCC competition. Here’s what I took away from the beatdown of the Pilots:

  1. Killian Tillie was operating very effectively in the paint against Portland’s zone defense early in the game. The guards were consistently getting him the ball near the high post where he was an instant threat, and he was able to get into a rhythm quickly. He makes for a great high post guy because his length and ball skills make him an easy target for entry passes. When accounting for his passing and shooting skills, which includes a nice short range floater we saw last night that has become consistent, he’s the ideal player to operate in the middle against a zone.
  2. After utilizing a zone through the first few possessions, Portland switched to a 1-3-1 trapping defense that Gonzaga carved up immediately. The guards were able to extend the zone high, and then penetrate inside into the middle of the zone. On one possession, Melson did a nice job splitting a trap and getting to the free throw line before dumping down to Rui who was lurking in the short corner below the zone. It was textbook execution.
  3. Tillie’s baseline out of bounds defense in the first 10 minutes of the game was some of the best I’ve ever seen. He had one steal and forced another turnover on a 5-second violation. Portland was using a guard to make the inbounds pass, and against Tillie’s size and athleticism, there were simply no passing windows. It’s probably related to his volleyball background (in case you hadn’t heard...) we’re constantly reminded of during broadcasts, but he was really good at crowding the inbounder without actually crossing the baseline, which I guess is akin to being a blocker at the net. Here at Slipper Still Fits, you come for the basketball talk and stay for the volleyball connections.
  4. Philipp Hartwich, Portland’s senior center from Germany, must have had this game circled on his calendar for quite some time. Hartwich took some aggressive shots at Tillie and Jacob Larsen. He must have had some grudges dating back to European Youth National Team competitions against France and Denmark.
  5. While Portland’s best players are its guards, it does have some size. Despite that, however, the Pilots were completely incapable of controlling the boards (GU outrebounded Portland 50-32). Considering the two teams combined for 58 attempted three-pointers, the lack of rebounding crushed any chance Portland had of keeping the scoreline respectable.
  6. Rui Hachimura is a matchup nightmare for WCC teams. He’s a legitimate NBA small forward from a physical standpoint, and his skills are developing at a rapid pace. Once again he was hyper efficient from the field last night, making 8 of his 10 field goal attempts. He’s made great strides in just the last few weeks, and I’m excited to see where his game will be when the calendar flips to March. On a side note, Rui’s forward free throw lean is amusing to watch. It always seems like he’s going to tip over after he releases the ball. Whatever he’s doing is working though, as his 91.1 FT% is the 23rd best mark in the country.
  7. Corey Kispert’s shot fake at the 3-point line is really solid. He got his defender in the air a few times which allowed him to easily side-step for an open 3. He had some driving opportunities off those shot fakes, but it appears that the coaching staff has made it a point of emphasis for him to shoot the long ball right now.
  8. Jeremy Jones set a nice flare screen for Jesse Wade to get him a clean look from the arc on his first possession on the floor. Jones does a lot of underrated work when he’s on the floor, and he does all of it well. It’s invaluable to have a player, especially one who doesn’t play heavy minutes, know exactly what his strengths and weaknesses are and play within himself.
  9. The bench’s reaction when Brian Pete sank his mid-range jumper was great. Another piece of evidence that the culture in Gonzaga’s locker room is as good as we all think it is.
  10. Silas Melson was en fuego from the three-point line. He’s been a great three-point shooter at home this season (23-50, 46%), but hasn’t been able to come close to that level outside The Kennel (10-40, 25%). Obviously, Gonzaga will not be playing any postseason games at The Kennel so it will be vital for Melson to got those away/neutral court numbers up when March rolls around.