For the first time since February 2014, Gonzaga has lost back-to-back games. Their first visit to Chapel Hill did not go as planned and North Carolina dismantled the Zags 103-90. It’s the first time Gonzaga has given up 100 points in regulation since 2007 (Virginia).
The first half was a disaster. The offense missed multiple open layups, the defense gave up drive after drive, and the transition defense left so much to be desired. Add 11 second chance points to that and you have a 53-39 North Carolina edge at the break. It was the first time they’ve given up that many points in a half since… North Carolina scored 53 in the 2009 Tournament. Gonzaga cut it to single digits a couple times, but allowed an easy basket the other way every time. UNC shot 56 percent in the first half, even after starting 2-for-9 from the field.
The second half did not get much better. Gonzaga’s defense immediately gave up a dunk and allowed 15 points before the under-16 timeout. So despite scoring 16 points in five minutes themselves, they made up no ground. Gonzaga cut the lead to 10 and UNC would push it back to 14. Gonzaga cut the lead to 9 and then turned it over on the break and then after Kispert missed a corner three and Norvell missed a step-back three, Cam Johnson responded with a made step-back three to push the lead back to 12. Gonzaga could never string together a stop and score to get within striking distance, despite multiple chances to do so.
UNC outscored Gonzaga 27-0 on second chance points. The Tar Heels were 13-for-25 from deep, a couple of them in the second half where you just tip your cap and say “ok whatever.” Cam Johnson finished 6-for-8 from deep and led the Tar Heels with 25 points. Luke Maye had 20 points and 16 rebounds, possibly his best game against good competition. The craziest part of the game is that Gonzaga forced 23 (!!!) turnovers and still gave up 103 points. That’s… not good. They can’t guard drives, they foul when they get beat, and when you have guys in foul trouble and no depth, you play a zone against a team shooting the lights out, and it doesn’t work out well.
Gonzaga finishes 9-2 in their insane non-conference gauntlet. I think most fans would have accepted that when the season started, but knowing how this team has played, especially in Maui, those two losses still sting.
Killian Tillie and Geno Crandall will be back in the first couple weeks of January. We’ll see if the defensive issues get sorted out before they play another major conference team in March. Gonzaga is back in action on Tuesday night against Texas-Arlington.