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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s loss to Saint Mary’s

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16-4

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

These are not as fun to do after a loss.

  1. The big issue going into this game for Gonzaga was how to defend Jock Landale. On the first few possessions of the game it was evident that Mark Few did not want to leave Johnathan Williams on an island with Landale in a single match-up very often, as we saw Killian Tillie immediately come over for a double team when Landale initiated his post on SMC’s first possession. For much of the evening, it was Williams on Landale with Tillie spying and shading heavily over to help once Landale began to make his move. The problem with this is that Tillie got stuck in no man’s land on a few possessions as he was too far away from his own man who burned him for a few 3’s, but not really in a position to help much on Landale who passed the ball well out of the post. Williams won a few battles, with a block on Landale in the second half serving as the highlight, but in the end Landale got the best of him (12-15 FG).
  2. The first nine minutes of the game featured an exceptional level of basketball from both teams. The two squads combined for only seven missed shots during that time, with free-flowing ball movement and textbook execution that served as a good representation of the WCC in front of a national audience on ESPN’s primary channel.
  3. Gonzaga struggled mightily from the 3-point line for the last 30 minutes of the game. Landale was going to score his points, but Gonzaga failed to make up for it at the arc with a 6-22 performance (compared to SMC’s efficient 8-13 shooting from long distance). The Zags missed a few opportunities to land what felt like could have been knockout punches from the 3-point line to establish a double-digit lead.
  4. It’s unfortunate that a pretty decent night from Tillie was marred by a brutal 15-second stretch in the second half. With the Zags up 7, Tillie collected an offensive rebound but then threw an errant pass to no one in particular that got picked off by the Gaels. The Gaels turned that turnover into a transition opportunity with the ball ending up in the hands of Tanner Krebs, Tillie’s man, who was wide open on the arc. Tillie then compounded the mistake of his turnover by fouling Krebs in the act-of-shooting to give him three free throws that cut SMC’s deficit. Gonzaga made another mini-push afterwards, but that sequence felt like a back-breaker.
  5. The fact that Gonzaga held a lead for much of the night despite Josh Perkins not scoring his first points until there was about 12:30 left in the game says a lot about the depth of this team. But Gonzaga needed its backcourt to be decidedly more productive than its SMC counterparts, and it was not. Naar/Ford and Perkins/Melson essentially played each other to a draw. The Zags swept SMC last season because the guards simply overwhelmed the Gaels. That didn’t happen on Thursday.
  6. Corey Kispert had a pretty quiet and ineffective night as he missed all three of his shots and didn’t record a single statistic in any other category during his nine minutes on the floor. The Kispert of the first half of the season would not have had a game like that, but instead would have thrived against a team like SMC that would not have had a good matchup for him. While it seems like Kispert has fully recovered from his ankle sprain, it appears he is still working to regain the confidence and rhythm he had before his injury.
  7. Jacob Larsen only got a 4-minute cameo in this game despite being the most natural defensive matchup to use against Landale. Larsen got in the game early (after the first media timeout), and I figured he would have a large role to play in this game as the style of play seemed to fit his skillset (as opposed to the USF game). Instead, Larsen struggled defending some of SMC’s screen-and-roll actions and gave up a pair of easy baskets during his brief time on the floor and he was given the quick hook from Mark Few. Considering we didn’t see him again for the rest of the night, it’s evident that Mark Few just isn’t comfortable with giving him a bigger role in the rotation just yet.
  8. Gonzaga’s off-ball movement during the final eight minutes of the game left a lot to be desired as the offense got caught in a little ball-watching. The result was only three made field goals for the Zags in the game’s final 10 minutes. That’s a surefire way to lose a game. Granted, the Zags missed some shots you’d expect them to make, but they didn’t help themselves by getting a tad stagnant.
  9. Few had Rui on Landale for a pair of possessions late in the game. Not sure if it was just to give Williams a breather but the change did produce consecutive stops, which is the most success the Zags had against Landale all night. I don’t think it would have been wise to have Rui on Landale all night, since Rui did look pretty tired after just those two possessions and he was the team’s most effective offensive option, but I would have stuck with Rui there in the final minute to close out the game.
  10. Speaking of Rui, that was truly a phenomenal offensive performance with the team leaning heavily on him to produce. His finishing within five feet of the basket has improved exponentially since just the beginning of the season, and he’s translated better footwork in the post into points. The Gaels didn’t have a single player that could come close to matching up with him one-on-one, and by the end of the game SMC was essentially throwing three guys at him when he touched the all in the paint. He’s a tremendous weapon to have.