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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win at San Diego

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26-4

NCAA Basketball: Loyola Marymount at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t always pretty, but the name of the game at this point in the year is Survive and Advance:

  1. The officiating was wildly inconsistent throughout the game, but with that said, there was also an entire catalog of silly fouls from Gonzaga. Ill-advised reach-ins and over-aggressive pursuit will lead to crippling fouls in the tournament, and they definitely need to be cleaned up.
  2. San Diego played a very physical and active brand of defense, frequently mucking up passing lanes with their active hands and crowding Gonzaga in scoring areas. Gonzaga’s defense did not play with the requisite energy or activity to match its counterpart and it showed for much of the game.
  3. Gonzaga’s off-ball movement needed to be sharper to generate better looks against USD. There was a lot of static offensive action in half-court sets, with Gonzaga content to throw the ball inside and watch without giving Williams, Tillie, and Hachimura secondary options. Those guys are more than capable, but their lives are made easier when they don’t have to force up a tough post-shot because they have nowhere else to go with the ball.
  4. San Diego’s Isaiah Pineiro was a nuisance all night. He frequently squirreled away from his defender which I blame on the Zags for simply losing sight of him on several occasions. His ability to float from the perimeter to the post and be effective in both areas certainly makes him a tougher cover, but Gonzaga has several players who should have been able to lock him up more effectively.
  5. Corey Kispert quietly had a very strong game off the bench. He nailed a pair of clutch threes for Gonzaga in either half, and was the most active Zag in the energy department. For example, the last possession of the first half featured Williams hitting a hook shot to beat the shot clock, but that doesn’t happen without Kispert making a hustle play to get an offensive rebound that allowed Gonzaga to dribble out the rest of the half leading to the Williams basket. After the game, Brian Michaelson singled out Kispert as the unsung hero of the night, and he was spot on.
  6. Zach Norvell had a really tough night in pretty much all areas of his game. I liked that he was trying to get to the basket when his shot wasn’t falling, since that normally has a curative effect on his shot, but a lot of his drives were out of control and led to turnovers.
  7. It seemed like there was a lot of confusion with respect to defensive assignments and switches. Zags were stepping off covers when they shouldn’t because they thought a teammate was picking up their man. A lot of it likely came down to not communicating at the defensive end, but it was troubling to see in the 30th game of the season from such a well-coached team.
  8. To knock off a Top-10 team, a lot of things have to go your way. San Diego made a plethora of absurd shots in the second half that had no business falling in, but those are the shots that need to fall to pull off an upset. The Zags simply could have packed it in when those shots were going in and chalked up the evening as “one of those nights,” but we should give them credit for staying mentally engaged and grinding out a difficult win. Not every team has the mental toughness to do that.
  9. Williams and Hachimura were clutch down the stretch and combined for 10 straight points during a 3-minute stretch right after the final media timeout that gave Gonzaga just enough breathing room to make it a free throw game in the dying seconds.
  10. The Zags went into the Jenny Craig Pavilion last season and blasted San Diego 96-38, so give USD Head Coach Lamont Smith a lot of credit for how much progress has been made with that program in just a year’s time. He’s doing great work down there.