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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over USF


NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at San Francisco John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Things always get a bit screwy for Gonzaga at the War Memorial Gymnasium. For a few moments at the end of the game, it started to feel like things were getting weird for the Zags. Fortunately, we still managed to get out of there with a win. Here’s what I took away:

  1. Johnathan Williams’ first three shot attempts came off his right hand. Just because you’re a senior doesn’t mean that development is over. It was good to see him going to his off hand more which as teams are keying on his left hand.
  2. USF made a concerted effort to get favorable matchups with Gonzaga switching on every screen-n-roll. Silas Melson and Josh Perkins got stuck in the post on a big a handful of times. Melson acquitted himself pretty well, though, and on one play fronted Erik Poulsen and used his athleticism to jump up and intercept a high entry pass.
  3. The first 10 minutes of the game was played at a very high pace, with the ball flowing freely for both offenses and minimal dead balls. It was fun basketball and great entertainment. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off once the referees began to demonstrate how many poor calls they could make to disrupt the rhythm of the game. The game became very disjointed with both teams unable to get into any kind of flow.
  4. The Zags struggled with USF’s aggressive trapping on ball screens. In those situations, Melson and Perkins need to create separation with the first dribble off the screen to drag away the screener’s man (usually an opposing big) who can then be isolated and broken down. If the ballhandler isn’t intentional and quick about create space off the screen, the trap is going to close more often than not. Splitting the screen is an option there as well, and is great if you can consistently pull it off. However, it’s a pretty low percentage play and I suspect that Few is not a big proponent of it.
  5. Even with both offenses struggling, USF had a great opportunity to cut its deficit throughout the game, but blew it at the free throw line. The Dons were 4-12 from the charity stripe at the break, and finished the game 9-19. Against an opponent with superior talent, you can’t let those freebies go to waste.
  6. Jacob Larsen didn’t play at all in the first half, and only logged 4 minutes total. Why? Rui and Williams were both playing fairly well, but Few played Rui at the 3-spot late in the game to have him on the floor with Tillie and Williams. When the Zags were struggling to get anything going, particularly in the final 10 minutes of the first half, I think Larsen is a legitimate option to play with any combination of Williams, Tillie, and Rui and have the offense run through him in the post. It’s just a different look for opponents to have to deal with, and reduces the burden on the other forwards to facilitate the interior offense.
  7. USF’s Frankie Ferrari, Souley Boum, and Jordan Ratinho are a fun and dynamic backcourt. Ferrari was very effective at getting penetration in the teeth of Gonzaga’s defense, and Boum showed he’s a more-than-capable shooter from distance and has good quickness to take his man off the dribble. Ratinho impressed me in last season’s games, and as a bigger guard who’s also a competent shooter he’s a great complement to the other two. If only the Dons had some forwards to pair with that trio, as those three combined to score 56 of USF’s 65 points.
  8. Gonzaga utilized a matchup zone a few times throughout the game because of USF’s success with taking advantages of the aforementioned ball screen switches. Unfortunately, our perimeter defenders routinely gave up too much space on the perimeter which gave the Dons a lot of uncontested threes, particularly in the second half.
  9. The Zags only notched 7 assists on their 28 made baskets, which is obviously not an ideal ratio. After the first 10 minutes, the ball movement ceased to be crisp and the offense became far too dependent on winning individual matchups rather than creating easy scoring opportunities for one another. Credit should go to USF’s defense, of course, but Gonzaga should be able to impose its will on just about every team in the WCC.
  10. A pair of blocks from Rui in the final two minutes is what secured the win for the Zags. Gonzaga was only up by six points after a pair of Jordan Ratinho threes made the ending a little closer than it needed to be. Fortunately, Rui’s length and athleticism prevented USF’s guards from getting any separation on their forays to the rim, and his discipline to stay vertical allowed him to get both crucial blocks without fouling.