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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s Senior Night Victory

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25-4

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

I’m thrilled that our seniors got a win in their final competitive appearance inside The Kennel. The last three years were bitter pills to swallow, and I was gutted for those groups of seniors who left The Kennel on sour notes (although there were some great tournament runs to make up for it):

  1. Brian Pete put on a clinic in how to hunt for your shot in his first career start. His teammates made a concerted effort to get the ball in his hands and the former manager was not bashful taking his looks within the flow of the offense. He had a three-point attempt go in-and-out, but picked up his second career bucket on a pretty floater down the lane. Dude has some skills.
  2. Colbey Ross issued his statement of intent early, converting a pair of tough jumpers against Silas Melson in Pepperdine’s first two possessions. Ross has been impressive for much of the season. He doesn’t have great size and isn’t terribly explosive, but he’s still really good at creating space and can finish through contact. He’s a nice foundational player for Pepperdine’s next coaching staff assuming he doesn’t transfer.
  3. Pepperdine’s zone was packed low and tight in the paint which allowed for a lot of space on the perimeter. It wasn’t too surprising of an approach considering how much better Gonzaga has been inside than at 3-point shooting as of late. Fortunately, the Zags finally took advantage from deep and finished the evening shooting 56.5% from the arc (13-23), the team’s best mark of the season.
  4. In conformity with their game plan while in season, Pepperdine opted to have its defenders go under just about every screen in the first half to take away penetration. Gonzaga’s guards did a good job of recognizing how Pepperdine was playing the ball screens and were willing to pull up and take shots off the dribble.
  5. There was a misfire on a roll-and-oop opportunity between Norvell and Rui. Norvell’s pass came in hot right at Rui’s chest while Rui was expecting an alley-oop and couldn’t handle the pass. Rui was clearly signaling for the oop so I’m going to put that one on Norvell for not delivering the pass Rui was expecting.
  6. Once Pepperdine lifted the zone, Gonzaga attacked inside repetitively though it didn’t find as much success as anticipated. Pepperdine was playing a rugged brand of defense, sure, but Williams had a handful of opportunities uncharacteristically roll in and out and Rui wasn’t his usual efficient self. Killian Tillie did the brunt of his damage on the perimeter where he was perfect from the arc (3-3).
  7. Gonzaga’s defense, whether man or zone, was pretty toothless for most of the game (the first 35 minutes if we’re being honest). Pepperdine was finally healthy and playing for its coach, to be sure, but the Zags had the advantage at every single matchup. It wasn’t obvious, though, for much of the game.
  8. It has to be a tough deal for Pepperdine’s Marty Wilson to coach out the string knowing that he will not be returning next season. He put together some good results over his first five years in Malibu, and it looked like he was building a consistently decent program that could be that 4th team in the WCC. But it’s a production business, and Pepperdine only mustered 11 wins combined over the last two years. Yes, the Waves have been hammered with injuries during that time, but Wilson didn’t have any pieces ready to fill in when Stacy Davis, Jeremy Major, and Lamond Murray Jr. graduated, and it cost him his job this year. He’s a great guy and a good coach who does well by his players, and its obvious that he’s well-respected around the conference. Hopefully he lands on his feet somewhere, and hopefully Pepperdine finds a coach that can get them back on track, for the conference’s sake.
  9. Melson has been the consummate team player in his four years on campus, from burning his redshirt after Perkins got injured to accepting a defensive stopper role off-the-bench for much of his career. He never posted consistently strong offensive numbers in his career, so it’s easy to forgot that he was recruited as a dynamic scorer from a strong program in Portland. But that’s not what Gonzaga needed from him, and he never once pouted about it. He’s a great example of the Gonzaga culture.
  10. Williams only played half of his career in Spokane, but it feels like he’s been a Zag for years. He fit right in to what Mark Few and the staff have created at Gonzaga, and he’s rewarded their faith with a big season this year. The losses of Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins could have really hamstrung Gonzaga’s interior attack, but Williams was up to the task of carrying the load on both ends of the floor. This season could have gone very poorly without JW3.