Gonzaga defeated Texas Southern 104-67 on Saturday night to improve to 2-0 on the young season. The Zags dashed the hopes of a second straight Tiger upset early and often. Here are 10 observations from the victory.
1. In Tuesday’s opening victory over Idaho State, it was all about Zach Norvell and Rui Hachimura. On Saturday, both men got into early foul trouble. No problem. Enter Brandon Clarke and Josh Perkins. The two fed off each other the entire game and each put up 19 points. Nights like this show the incredible scoring depth Gonzaga has. They don’t rely on one or two players every night. They have six guys who can put up double figures real fast. It’s the first time in school history they’ve posted 100 points in back-to-back games.
2. This felt like Brandon Clarke’s official introduction to Zag Nation. We’ve heard all about the rim protection, the athleticism, and the growth in his game. All three were on display on Saturday. Clarke had six blocks on the night, multiple rim rattling dunks, and scored in a variety of ways, including an 18-foot jumper. After Rui picked up his second foul, Clarke posted nine points, seven rebounds, and two blocks in the final 10:30 of the first half. He finished with 19/13/6 and zero turnovers in just 27 minutes.
3. As for Perkins, he’s started his senior season as well as anyone could have hoped. The questions about how he would respond to shoulder surgery have been answered. Perkins posted a career-high 11 assists to go along with 19 points. He carried the offensive load with Zach Norvell (eight points in 18 minutes) in foul trouble all night. Perkins has 19 assists and just two turnovers to start the season. After the game, Perkins was asked about his chemistry with Brandon Clarke: “It’s just game two, so we’re still building chemistry, we’re still trying to figure out each other’s spot. For us to have that already, it’s scary.” Scary, indeed.
4. The defense, especially in the first half, looked much improved from Tuesday’s opener. Texas Southern was held to just 24 points in the first half and coughed up nine turnovers. The Tigers were held to just 34 percent shooting, a much better mark than the 46 percent clip that Idaho State put up. For the last few years, Gonzaga has done a remarkably good job taking away team’s best scorers. Idaho State’s leading scorer from a year ago was held to just six shot attempts on Tuesday. On Saturday, Jalyn Patterson was 4-for-19 from the field with three turnovers. Josh Perkins guarded him a majority of the game, making Perkins’ offensive output even more impressive.
5. Rui Hachimura ran into some foul trouble, but still posted an efficient game. He shot 7-for-13 from the field and finished with 17 points and six rebounds in just 20 minutes. He has 50 points in 44 minutes this season on 65 percent shooting. Wow.
6. Jeremy Jones had what Donny Daniels said was his best half in a Gonzaga uniform in the first 20 minutes. It’s hard to argue if you watched the game. Jones finished with seven points and five rebounds on the night, but his hustle plays and activity in the first half led to Gonzaga pulling away. Jones was +15 on the court in the first half.
7. Gonzaga flashed a 1-2-2 press a couple times throughout the night. The first time, Texas Southern was caught so off guard that they called a timeout before attempting a single pass. Mark Few mentioned this pre-season that he wants to pick up full court more this year.
8. Gonzaga is superb in transition. They have so many guys who can lead the break and all of them are hard to stop in the open court. Eight of their first 13 points came in transition and they racked up 20 points off turnovers.
9. Filip Petrusev had some really nice minutes. He’s another guy who runs the court really well, as evidence by a fast break bucket in the first half. You can see his inside-out ability is there. He just needs to get stronger. He was bullied a couple times down low against some monstrous Texas Southern big men.
10. Geno Crandall is a really intriguing player. He’s still trying to find his way, which is understandable since he’s only been around for a month. He’s a solid defender and has really good court vision. But he’s turned it over seven times in two games. I wouldn’t be overly concerned because by and large, his positives have far outweighed the negatives. You assume the turnover numbers will go down the longer he plays with these guys.