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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Washington


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

Most of Gonzaga’s game against the Washington Huskies is not something I will care to re-live, but that final possession was a signature moment in what is shaping up to be a very special season for Rui Hachimura. Even talented teams have a handful of games where they don’t have their best stuff, and in those games the really good teams still find a way to win. Gonzaga was able to pull that off against their rival, and it really helped to have a player of the year candidate to close it out. Here are the takeaways from Wednesday night’s thriller:

  1. The biggest keys to playing the zone is to move the ball quickly and being patiently aggressive. The opportunities present themselves when you probe the zone, but indecisiveness typically leads to an empty possession, so it wasn’t surprising to see Mark Few admonishing his players to shoot after Gonzaga’s first possession.
  2. Playing against UW’s 2-3 zone is going to result in some ugly basketball. Gonzaga was forced out of its ball screen heavy offense, and didn’t have many opportunities to play with pace. Credit to Mike Hopkins and the Huskies for dictating the tempo of the game and forcing Gonzaga out of its comfort zone. It almost earned them a “W.”
  3. After giving up 92 points to Creighton on Saturday, the UW offense should have been just what the doctor ordered for Gonzaga’s defense. But we saw some of the same problems with slow rotations, getting lost, and sloppy close-outs rear their ugly head throughout the game. The Zags actually made the Huskies look competent on offense, which is really the greatest indictment of the state of the defense right now.
  4. I can’t recall the last time Zach Norvell only took two shots in a single half, but he did it in the first half of this game with the UW defense keying in on him every time he touched the ball. He did a nice job reading the corner defender and consistently making the skip pass after Gonzaga overloaded the zone, usually to Kispert who was sliding into a gap on the weak side.
  5. The Zags didn’t really attack the zone much from the short corner, where you typically see teams work to get the ball against a 2-3 zone like Washington’s. While the Zags were successfully getting entry passes into the paint from the top of the arc, I would’ve liked to see some two-man games with Rui or Clarke working the short corner with the other guy diving from the high post. This might have created some more space on the perimeter for Snacks and crew with the defense having to compact a bit.
  6. Gonzaga’s energy to start the second half was really poor, and they looked like they were playing without much purpose on either end of the floor. We haven’t seen them look that flat for any kind of extended period of time this season, so it was startling to see them look so blasé in a rivalry game.
  7. Petrusev gave GU a really good shift in the second half with Clarke in foul trouble. When he’s not playing or he’s getting the quick hook, it’s probably because Few doesn’t think he’s “out-toughing” or “out-competing” guys on the floor, so it was encouraging to see him bring that at a time in the game when Gonzaga’s overall compete-level wasn’t where it should have been.
  8. A perfect night at the free throw line came at the best possible time for the Zags. Both squads entered the game shooting in the low 70-percent range from the charity stripe, and both squads had excellent nights at the line. Gonzaga needed every single one of them too, so let’s hope this continues for the rest of the season.
  9. The late game execution was...truly abysmal. I hate dribbling out the clock and then isolating, it probably results in a good outcome 5% of the time. GU’s second-to-last possession with a 4-point lead with just under a minute to go that ended up with an off-balance Perkins jumper was absurd. I’m not sure why the ball doesn’t end up in Norvell or Rui’s hands in that situation.
  10. I’ll just leave this here...