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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over UT-Arlington


NCAA Basketball: Texas-Arlington at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to overcome the natural letdown of having to quickly turn around to face UT-Arlington after playing in Chapel Hill, even if it was a bitter loss. It’s even harder to do when the energy of the Kennel Club is missing. So, the Zags get credit for taking care of business and easily dispatching the Mavericks to break a two-game losing streak. Here’s what else I took away from Tuesday night’s game:

  1. Coming off a 20-point effort against UNC where he was pretty much the only thing holding Gonzaga back from getting truly blown out, it was nice to see Perkins maintaining an aggressive mindset in taking his own shot opportunities. He is, of course, primarily a distributor in this system—and the Zags desperately lean on him to be. But when he forces defenses to defend his shot and step out beyond the arc, and not just focus on taking away his ability to facilitate, he creates so much more conflict for the opposition in how they defend ball screens and rotate their help side coverage.
  2. The first basket on the first possession of the game came from a Corey Kispert dribble penetration that led to a layup. I feel like I’ve said this a lot over the last few weeks, but it bears repeating, we need to see more assertiveness from him in the half court offense, particularly early in a game to keep defenses honest. Gonzaga is so balanced that it can be easy for guys like Kispert and Perkins (see above) to stop hunting their own shot in order to cede looks to the other starters. It’s so important that they make defenses continue to respect them within the flow of the offense, and his early aggressiveness got him into the flow of the game much sooner.
  3. Brandon Clarke had a lot of success in the second half of the UNC game dribble driving from the perimeter and finishing just short of the rim, and he carried that same aggressiveness into the opening minutes of this game. That was a part of his game that I wasn’t sure he had to start the year, but it’s something that teams have to respect now.
  4. Joel Ayayi matched his season high of 12 minutes. Like the South Dakota State game where he also played a dozen minutes, he looked like he could contribute while spelling Perkins. But it looks like he still has a ways to go in terms of orchestrating the offense and playing with consistent effort level before Few allows him to play through his mistakes at both ends of the floor.
  5. The Zags aren’t going to be beat physically off the bounce or on the boards against a team like UTA (or frankly anyone else they play during the remainder of the non-conference schedule). That means the only way we can really evaluate their progress on the defensive end is to monitor their effort, communication, and attention to detail. Those have to be constants whether at home or on the road, and regardless of the quality of the opponent. There were a few blips against UTA, but the Zags made a bad offense look bad and held the Mavericks to 0.71 points per possession (the best mark of the season for GU).
  6. For a team with limited depth and no fouls to spare, there have been far too many bad fouls over the last few weeks. Fouling jump shooters with soft touch fouls on the elbow or wrist are simply fouls you can’t have. Those are a product of either being beat or a lack of concentration. Either way, can’t have it.
  7. Gonzaga’s ability to break down a zone defense still does not inspire confidence. What’s most surprising about this is that skill level and unselfishness are in abundance on this team, so it comes down to simply executing the game plan against zone coverages. Quick passing, playing inside out, and maintaining proper spacing while having a numbers advantage on one side of the zone are the bread and butter elements to beating this coverage.
  8. Zach Norvell didn’t attempt a shot until the second half after the coaching staff talked to him about being more judicious with his shot selection after the UNC game. Dan Dickau made a great point on the broadcast about how bad shots taken out of the flow offense don’t just result in a miss, but also typically occur with guys out of rebounding position or out of position to get back and play effective transition defense. Norvell missed his first 4 shots to start the second half, but the important thing was they were all good shots to take. You don’t want to eliminate his aggressiveness nor do you want to see him go a half without shooting the ball, so finding a happy medium will be his challenge over the coming weeks.
  9. Much better work on the glass from Gonzaga after getting worked in that category at Chapel Hill. I saw a lot more guys searching out a body to box out and winning position around the rim.
  10. The Zags look tired. They don’t have the same juice they had in November, but with the schedule they just completed it’s easy to understand why. A few days off after Friday, along with the imminent return of Tillie and Crandall, will be the shot in the arm this team needs to roll through the WCC.