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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win against San Diego

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20-4

NCAA Basketball: San Diego at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga’s win over San Diego won’t ever be remembered as a pretty win, but it was reassuring to see the Zags grind out a victory over a legitimately good defense. Here’s what else I took away:

  1. Against San Diego’s tight 3-point defense (second best in the country per KenPom), Gonzaga was forced to hunt for its long distance shots early in the clock, in transition before the Torero defense could get set, or take advantage of loose balls and scrambled plays to get off a good look. Of Gonzaga’s six made three-pointers, I’d estimate that five came in those circumstances. There were very few good shots generated from the perimeter based on executing the half court offense, which is a testament to San Diego’s defense.
  2. San Diego is praised for its defense of the 3-point line, but it also made dribble drive penetration very difficult. There weren’t too many instances where a Gonzaga player broke down his man off the dribble and had an easy layup. Post-ups and off-ball movement were the keys to Gonzaga’s best offensive possessions throughout much of the game, but it felt like there was too much standing around at times.
  3. In order to maintain their perimeter defense, San Diego was not willing to send players to dig when Johnathan Williams initiated his moves in the post. While Williams “only” finished with 14 points, this was a mistake as he took advantage by pounding away inside and took a lot of pressure off the backcourt.
  4. Williams wasn’t just getting it done on the offensive end, however, as he did a great job on Isaiah Pineiro who was coming off a 29 point game against LMU last weekend. Pineiro really struggled against the length of Williams and did nearly all of his damage from the free throw line or in transition.
  5. Josh Perkins struggled to finish at the rim for much of the night because his balance was constantly poor, which is surprising considering his athleticism. We just don’t see very much explosiveness when he drives through the lane, and he often looks to be unnecessarily adjusting his body to avoid contact. I’d also like to see him develop a left-handed finish as he too frequently tries to get to his right side.
  6. Gonzaga’s transition defense was a bit scrambled to start the second half, with guys not communicating with each other regarding defensive assignments. San Diego took advantage of the disarray by fanning out and hitting a trio of threes in the opening 2:40 of the half. The sequence demonstrated just how punitive a loss of focus can be, even for just a few minutes.
  7. After the aforementioned poor start to open the second half, Gonzaga’s defense played one of its best stretches of the season, forcing the Toreros into an 8 minute scoreless drought that included 12 missed shots, 3 turnovers, and no free throw attempts. While San Diego is by no means an offensive juggernaut, that’s a tough thing to do against any team.
  8. Silas Melson’s line in the box score doesn’t look that impressive, but he was the catalyst at both ends of the floor in Gonzaga’s impressive 11-0 run during the second half. I’ll miss his ability to be a disruptive defensive force next year.
  9. Considering how small San Diego’s primary lineup is, I’m surprised Jacob Larsen only got three minutes in this game (all in the first half), especially since our best offense was coming from playing inside-out. His minutes have been wildly inconsistent this season, so I’m curious to know what’s happening in practice that is preventing him from carving out a bigger role. He could be a useful tool against Jock Landale, but I feel like we’ve missed the opportunity this season to prepare him for that role.
  10. Let’s give Zach Norvell the closer job already.