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Gonzaga vs. Santa Clara game preview: Time to rebound

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After a disappointing loss to Saint Mary’s, the Zags can only look forward.

NCAA Basketball: St. Mary's at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are looking to bounce back against the Santa Clara Broncos after a disappointing loss to the Saint Mary’s Gaels on Thursday night.

After a whole heck of a lot of posturing on this blogs part, Saint Mary’s pulled a narrow upset over the Zags, 74-71. Rui Hachimura was stellar in the game, scoring a career high 23 points in 30 minutes. Unfortunately, Jock Landale was also stellar in the game, leading the Gaels with 26 points and providing just enough offense to pull off the win.

Santa Clara is coming off a great away in at San Francisco on Thursday, led by KJ Feagin’s 23 points.

Meet the opponent

Santa Clara Broncos,7-12, KenPom #273

For the first time in four years, this portion of the blog post is going to be a bit different. All that means is Jared Brownridge isn’t on the team. Luckily, there is the ever memorable KJ Feagin to take his place. Feagin isn’t quite the scorer that Brownridge is, but he is still the primary option by a long shot. Feagin has attempted 245 field goals on the year (as of Thursday evening). In second place rolls Henry Caruso with 140.

The Broncos have some nice new pieces added to the mix. Josip Vrankic is a 6’8 freshman forward 11.7 points and five rebounds per game. Junior guard Matt Hauser contributes 10 points per game.

The issue for Santa Clara is what afflicts a lot of the teams at the bottom of the WCC this year. The Broncos just aren’t a good defensive team, and Santa Clara has been rather unlucky at getting beyond burned from long range. Opponents are shooting an astonishing 43.5 percent from beyond the arc, which is No. 350 in the nation. Opponents eFG% is 59.2, good for No. 348 in the nation. You couldn’t ask for a better rebound team to play.

What to watch out for

How does this team rebound?

Specifically, this is talking about Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Corey Kispert. All three players had rough to really rough offensive games against Saint Mary’s, and Gonzaga can’t really pull off a win against good teams when 3/7ths of the rotation disappears. Melson, in particular, has been fantastic against WCC play, and it would be great to see him regain a bit of that offensive confidence.

BALL CONTROL!

There is one thing Santa Clara does pretty decently and that is force turnovers. The Zags were phenomenally clean against Saint Mary’s, only turning the ball over five times. That is the lowest turnover total since playing Utah State at the beginning of the year. Considering turnovers have been a problem all year for the Zags, it would be great to see some continued improvement in this arena. Perkins only had one turnover on Thursday—same with Johnathan Williams. Let’s hope for positive improvement on Saturday.

Let’s pass the ball some more.

After having a season-low in team assists against San Francisco with seven, the Zags followed it up with a mere 11 against Saint Mary’s. You want to pin the blame on that loss somewhere, and it is pretty easy to point to that figure. The Zags had three assists TOTAL in the second half of the game, when the offense graduated to hero ball rather than finding the best shot. Honestly, Hachimura’s game masked what was going on there. That brand of offense hasn’t ever suited a Gonzaga team. They need to return to running an actual offense and finding the better shot.