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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s home win over BYU


NCAA Basketball: Brigham Young at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It would have been a real shame if Silas Melson had graduated this year without a home win over BYU on his resume. Fortunately, he won’t have to deal with that thought anymore. Here’s what I took away from Saturday’s win:

  1. The fun debate going into the night was how Johnathan Williams and Yoeli Childs would match up with one another. That duel never really materialized, however, as Luke Worthington’s inclusion into BYU’s starting lineup rearranged the matchups and put Killian Tillie on Childs. Though we didn’t get to see the two forwards battle often, both guys still provided the performances their respective teams needed.
  2. Worthington was added to the lineup to give BYU a better chance against Gonzaga’s length, but he struggled with the quickness of Williams who beat him on face up moves several times throughout the game.
  3. Tillie was reportedly dealing with the flu over the last two games. It didn’t look like it through the first 8 minutes as he picked up 9 quick points and was a disruptive force, likely thanks to a combination of adrenaline and pre-game fluids. His energy clearly waned over the course of the game, and he played fewer minutes (19) because of it, but you have to tip your hat to him for gutting it out in a big game for the Zags.
  4. BYU played at a tempo that was Top 10 fastest in the country over the past six seasons. The Cougars adjusted their approach in a big way this season, and are currently ranked at 239. During the first half, the Cougars reverted back to their pace of old, eagerly running up and down the floor and firing up quick shots in transition. That pace ultimately favored the Zags, however, who have played their best basketball this year when playing fast. Once the Cougars got back into their game plan and forced Gonzaga into a more plodding, grinding affair, they were able to close the gap in the second half.
  5. The Gonzaga coaching staff threw some interesting wrinkles at BYU, occasionally having Perkins dig backside to contest entry passes into Childs. On the other end, the back screen that Rui set for Perkins to free him for an alley-oop surely surprised the Cougars as that action hasn’t been shown all season.
  6. BYU got zero points from its bench (and only attempted 3 shots total from 4 different players). In comparison, Gonzaga’s duo of Rui and Corey combined for 22 points and proved to be difficult matchups on the wings. Even Jeremy Jones made a significant impact on the defensive end off the bench. Though Mark Few prefers to maintain a short rotation, the talent that he’s able to call on from the reserves is simply too much for WCC teams.
  7. BYU did a terrible job of keeping Rui out of the paint. Once he won position on the low block, it was game over, as his length allows him to finish with ease around the rim. Williams was also getting relatively easy scores on post-ups. Unlike previous years, BYU was missing a brute big man like Nate Austin and Corbin Kaufusi to make the Zags work for buckets in the paint.
  8. Even with Luke Worthington notching a career high in scoring (16 points), the no-show from Elijah Bryant (4pts, 1-11 shooting) spelled doom for the Cougars. Gonzaga did a great job of relegating Bryant to a perimeter oriented game, and he struggled to get off clean looks against the array of wings that the Zags were able to throw at him.
  9. I liked that the coaching staff trusted Jeremy Jones in this game, and he repaid that faith with an impactful 8 minutes of play on the defensive end. I admire his ability to keep himself mentally ready despite receiving inconsistent minutes throughout the season.
  10. Despite having a significant physical advantage, Norvell struggled with the craftiness of TJ Haws and he allowed Haws to score on him several times down the stretch. On more than a handful of occasions, Norvell simply lost track of Haws. Norvell’s exhibited a penchant for hitting big shots late in games, and he’s fearless in the big moments, but he still needs to play defense at a sufficient level to keep himself on the floor at the end of the game.