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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Idaho State

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Idaho State v Gonzaga Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

The Zags looked great in their season opener, with long stretches of offensive dominance glossing over some brief periods of offensive and defensive disarray. There’s a lot of offensive talent on this roster, and the ability to get better on the defensive end is also there. Here’s what I took away from the rest of the game.

  1. Gonzaga’s first basket of the season came courtesy of a Rui mid range jumper from the elbow. He’s always been very comfortable from that range and has great touch, but to really complete the development of his game (and improve his NBA draft stock) it would be great if he was proficient from the three-point line. He passed up a wide open look from 3 in the first half (by dishing to Norvell who made his own 3), and didn’t attempt a shot from that distance all night. With that said, I’m certainly not complaining about the heavy dose of dunks he provided early in the second half to absolutely bury Idaho State. His All-American campaign is off to a good start.
  2. We saw excellent ball movement on a few possession early why resulted in two wide open threes from the corner for Kispert and Norvell because guys were willing to make the extra pass. There are a lot of good shooters on this team and those looks will continue to be there so long as the unselfish play continues.
  3. Brandon Clarke’s easy athleticism was on full display. He’s really “springy,” and can second and third jump very quickly. While he’s not a big guy at 6’8”, relatively speaking, he makes up for it with his bounce. However, he can still clean up some of his basic fundamentals. He picked up a really silly foul by playing defense with his hands down, and then contesting late when his man faced up and pulled up. That’s a very avoidable foul.
  4. It was interesting to see Filip Petrusev playing the 5 on defense instead of Rui when Clarke sat down with foul trouble. Thought it would be the other way around considering Rui’s strength, length, and experience.
  5. The offense and defense fell apart when the reserves came in early after the first media timeout. There was a notable lack of communication on defense that led to a lot of breakdowns and the offensive rhythm broke down. Fortunately, that’s why they play these tune-up games to get through these issues.
  6. Gonzaga trotted out a couple of small ball lineups out of necessity with Brandon Clarke in foul trouble during the first half and Petrusev unavailable for a few minutes due to a cut to his head. The results were a little mixed at first, but looked much better in the second half when the offense and defense were firing on all cylinders. It worked best with Rui at the 5 flanked by Perkins, Crandall, Norvell, and Kispert.
  7. Gonzaga’s offense can get so hot so quickly and put away a team in the blink of an eye. We saw that happen during a burst in both halves which is how they got to 120 points so easily, despite the starters sitting for the last 7+ minutes of the game (and without Tillie). But, just because the offensive potential is there doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be locked in on defense. Strong defense always leads to easy offense, as we saw in the first six minutes of the second half.
  8. I’m really surprised Greg Foster Jr. isn’t redshirting. He possess intriguing athleticism and size, but I don’t think his skills are at a level where he’s ready to contribute in a meaningful way this year. It’s unclear whether the lack of a redshirt is at all related to Joel Ayayi’s situation. Ayayi, for unknown reasons, appears to be behind Foster in the pecking order based on how they were substituted in this game. Ayayi didn’t play in the Michigan State scrimmage, but he did play tonight which muddies our read on whether he was injured and is working his way back, or whether he’s not where the coaches want him to be. This is definitely a situation to monitor.
  9. Zach Norvell scores with so much ease. His jumper wasn’t falling early, so he got himself to the free throw line which got his offense going. He then hit a handful of jumpers late in the first half. That’s a sign of growth from last season and is a sign of more good things to come.
  10. 27 points for Gonzaga off of 15 forced turnovers, while only giving up 4 points off 6 of their own turnovers. Great recipe for success