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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over USF


NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at San Francisco Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Oh boy did that game deliver. USF gave Gonzaga a good run, but the Zags are kings of the WCC for a reason, and their big game experience proved to be the difference:

  1. Gonzaga found out pretty early that USF’s defense is for real. The Dons were aggressive and organized with their defensive trapping in the halfcourt, and effectively disrupted Gonzaga’s ability to execute actions in its halfcourt sets.
  2. Jimbo Lull got the best of Rui Hachimura at the outset of the game by taking advantage of his significant size advantage to pick up 6 quick points and 3 rebounds before the first media timeout. With Clarke tied up on the more athletic Nate Renfro, Rui was stuck battling in the post with a guy who had about four inches and 40 pounds on him. Fortunately, Rui wasn’t stuck on that matchup all night which likely would have worn him out for the offensive end, as he was able to get out of that matchup when Tillie entered the game.
  3. The decision to bring Tillie back against Santa Clara and give him two games to shake off the rust and improve his conditioning paid off in a big way. He scored 10 points in the first 12 minutes of the game and stretched out USF’s defense by sinking a pair of threes. Oh, and having him available to come in when Rui picked up a second foul with 6 minutes left in the first half to ensure there was no dropoff doesn’t hurt either.
  4. The Zags were trying to run and manufacture transition offense, but had minimal chances to do so because the Dons don’t turn the ball over. Gonzaga was limited to three points off turnovers in the entire game, and found very few opportunities for easy fast break points. The Zags also took great care of the ball too, however, with both teams combining for only 9 turnovers during the entire game which is a testament to the senior guards that run the show for both offenses.
  5. Clarke is so good at making his presence felt in the restricted area on both ends of the floor. He’s so disciplined at staying vertical to protect the rim and alter shots without selling out to get a block, and he can score in double figures without having a single play called for him just by cleaning up loose balls around the rim with his strength and athleticism.
  6. The Gonzaga offense needs the threat of Perkins’ 3-ball. Tillie’s return adds another wrinkle to the offense, but defenses have to be forced to stay home on the perimeter on someone else other than Norvell. Perkins was money tonight when the Zags needed him most, and if he’s providing that scoring in addition to his high-level distribution, Gonzaga’s offense becomes almost impossible to defend.
  7. You can’t have your hands down while guarding Franke Ferrari on the perimeter. He’s got an extremely quick release and no hesitation in firing off shots. And while its tempting to overplay Ferrari on the perimeter to deny him the ball, USF’s players are well drilled on back cuts and secondary actions to slice up defenses that play overly aggressive and undisciplined.
  8. Tillie was properly called for a hook-and-hold flagrant by the letter of the law, but I have no idea why the act of a hook-and-hold is a flagrant foul in the rule book. Prior to this season, the hook-and-hold was simply a common foul, and it should have stayed that way. I understand the rules committee want to prevent injuries, but elevating this foul to a flagrant is way too much of a game changer and will alter key games in big moments down the road. It’s not worth it.
  9. I have no problem with Perkins and Clarke combining for an alley-oop up 10 points in Gonzaga’s final possession. The announcers didn’t like it, and neither did Mark Few, but I absolutely loved it. You could see the conflict in Perkins as he weighed the decision to throw the oop after Clarke called for it, and I’m glad he did it. The Zags are the rightful kings of the WCC and just held off a valiant USF team, it should be okay to get saucy at the end of a tough road game. Those are the plays that add fire to conference rivalries, which are the lifeblood of college basketball.
  10. I hope USF gets a spot in the tournament. That’s a good team that is worthy of playing in the dance. If they wrap up the second spot in the WCC, as they should, I have a hard time envisioning the committee keeping them out on Selection Sunday.