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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win at Santa Clara


NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Santa Clara Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

It’s always nice to get back to winning ways. Kudos to the fellas for putting Thursday’s loss behind them and taking care of business on the road. Here’s what else I took away:

  1. As a group our bigs did a pretty solid job of challenging drivers vertically without fouling (they’ve been consistently good at this all season). It’s a sign of good coaching plus coachable players, something that shouldn’t go unnoticed around the country.
  2. Gonzaga used a heavy dose of pick and rolls in the first 10 minutes of the game to great success. Both Zach Norvell and Josh Perkins executed it well, routinely sucking in Santa Clara’s defense by pausing an extra beat before hitting the roll man.
  3. For its part, Santa Clara’s PNR coverage was a bit perplexing. The Broncos failed to pick up Gonzaga’s rollers with weakside help for a long stretch of the first half, essentially giving the Zags an open runway to the rim.
  4. Gonzaga’s bigs are more than capable of defending guards on the perimeter thanks to their athleticism and length, but they failed to take advantage of the latter on several possessions by playing D with their hands down. Santa Clara’s Matt Hauser hit one in Tillie’s face because he didn’t contest the jump shot after getting switched onto him at the perimeter. There’s a reason “hands down, man down” has survived the test of time.
  5. Santa Clara’s KJ Feagins proved to be a tough cover in this game. He did a good job of maintaining his dribble under duress, and he used his quickness to consistently get penetration against Gonzaga’s defense. Since Silas Melson was saddled with foul trouble, the Zags were short a defensive stopper to slow him down.
  6. I’d like to see the coaching staff set up some actions to get Corey Kispert some shots going to the rim. He’s been used primarily as a floor stretcher since his ankle injury, but hasn’t shot the ball as well as he did during the first month of the season. Like with Norvell’s cold stretches, it would be worthwhile to get him some easier shots to get his rhythm going and give him some confidence.
  7. Johnathan Williams utilized a few short range jump shots (7 feet or so) which is an awkward shot for him. I’d rather see him continue to back his man down a little further to get into hook or floater range or kick out, as he’s not going to have much success shooting a jump shot from that distance.
  8. With Rui’s emergence during conference play, the coaching staff has utilized more lineups with him, Tillie, and Williams together on the floor. While I certainly won’t dispute that those three are our best frontcourt players, and you have to keep Rui on the floor with the way he’s been playing, the lineup has had a negative effect on the offensive floor spacing as all three do their best work in the paint.
  9. Gonzaga’s offensive pacing and three-point shooting has been quite poor for the last three games, and the last two games have produced the least amount of possessions this season (62). The Zags have sacrificed the tempo they played with earlier in the season in an effort to take better care of the ball, which has worked as the turnovers have decreased. But I still think you can keep the TO’s down while playing fast, and would like to see them get back to that.
  10. it’s not often you see the Zags get denied at the rim. But Santa Clara was the first WCC team to out-block Gonzaga (5-2), and the first opponent to do so since North Dakota over a month ago. The Broncos had zero blocks in their first game against Gonzaga this year, but thanks to 6’8” freshman Josip Vrankic whose 3 blocks was more than the entire Gonzaga team, they pulled off the rare feat.