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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Denver

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11-2

NCAA Basketball: Denver at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga put on an absolute clinic to wash out the bad taste of last week’s games. There’s really not much that needs to be said about one of the most lopsided games I’ve ever seen, but I’ll try anyway:

  1. From the outset of the game, Gonzaga made a noticeable effort to deny passes and disrupt Denver’s offensive flow. The Zags were also much cleaner at working in unison to prevent penetration to force the Pioneers into long and contested jumpers.
  2. The Zags signaled their intent to attack Denver on the blocks early and often. While Gonzaga was obviously going to lean on their 1-2 punch in Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura, the Pioneers didn’t even attempt to make them work to get the ball. Everything came extremely easy in the paint for those two.
  3. Gonzaga converted its first 15 (FIFTEEN!!!) field goal attempts, with the first miss from anywhere on the floor coming at the free throw line with 8:57 left in the first half and the score at 35-6 in favor of the Zags. The first miss from the field came on the next possession on a long 2-point attempt. I’ve never seen a run that ridiculous before.
  4. The Zags were on such an insane roll that not even Josh Perkins landing in quick foul trouble (thanks to an offensive foul) could slow things down. For the second game in a row, Joel Ayayi came off the bench first to run the offense, which is a development that I strongly endorse.
  5. The Pioneers tried to mix up their defensive coverages midway through the first half in an effort to disrupt Gonzaga’s rhythm, but it was too little too late by that point. A zone and then a full court press did nothing to stop the heater that Gonzaga found itself in. Considering how zones have flummoxed the Zags in the past, hopefully they imprint that sequence of execution into their collective memories for the future.
  6. You have to squint to find something to criticize about Gonzaga’s first half, but if you wanted to be a Grinch you could focus on the six turnovers in the first 12 minutes
  7. This is the second straight game that Gonzaga’s defense has forced a shot clock violation, in fact, it forced three shot clock violations! Obviously, they came against poor teams, but you have to start somewhere when you’re trying to get your defense squared away. The intensity and attention to detail in closing off angles and rotating properly were encouraging signs to see.
  8. While the win over UTA on Tuesday was comfortable, it felt like Gonzaga wasn’t engaged in that game all. That wasn’t the story in this one, as the Zags had a lot better energy on both ends of the floor. The defense was lively and the offensive execution was very crisp for pretty much the entire game.
  9. After a nearly perfect first half, it’s a credit to the Zags that they opened the second half with the same focus and effort that they played with during the first 20 minutes. Even with a lead that quickly eclipsed 40 points, they maintained an extremely high level of defensive execution. It wasn’t borne from a desire to run up the score or embarrass an opponent. Instead, they looked like a team striving to improve and be great.
  10. Despite exiting the game for good with 7 minutes left to play, Rui and Clarke (46 points combined on 19-21 shooting) still managed to outscore the entire DU team (40 points).