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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Santa Clara

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14-2

NCAA Basketball: Santa Clara at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

A fully loaded Gonzaga squad looks like it could be the best team in the country...Here’s what I took away from the WCC opener against the Santa Clara Broncos:

  1. Gonzaga’s 34 court pressure, and success in preventing penetration caused a lot of disruption to Santa Clara’s offensive sets early in the game, which forced the Broncos into a lot of isolation attempts late in the clock.
  2. Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke’s two-man game in the paint is such a treat to watch. Rui went to work early, scoring 8 of Gonzaga’s first 9 points, and Clarke did a nice job of taking advantage of the double teams Santa Clara started sending at Rui.
  3. Killian Tillie and Geno Crandall were treated to a standing ovation when they checked into the game. While that moment was nice, the true highlight of their return was the insane lineup versatility that Mark Few now has at his fingertips. We saw Perkins and Crandall on the floor today, Jeremy Jones at the 3, and Petrusev relegated to essentially a third-string role. Petrusev’s role, and how he responds to it—assuming that he will have diminished minutes despite providing positive play in Tillie’s absence—will be an interesting storyline over the rest of the season.
  4. Tillie didn’t look to be moving uncomfortably or overly cautions with his ankle, which is obviously a great sign. He was a little jacked on his first shot attempt, understandably, considering he hasn’t played since the Round of 32 in last year’s NCAA Tournament. His conditioning and rhythm will be the big keys for him to work on in the next few weeks.
  5. The Zags were much more active and aggressive with their perimeter defense, regularly playing for steals. I haven’t watched enough of Santa Clara this year to determine whether that was just an area Gonzaga knew was vulnerable (they looked very loose with their ball security all game long), or whether the bolstered depth encouraged guys to expend a lot more energy on the defensive end knowing that they could get some more rest than earlier in the year. It led to Gonzaga dominating the turnover differential and is something to keep an eye on over the next few games.
  6. Perkins found Tillie for a wide open three on the weak side wing late in the first half, which he duly sank. Tillie was all alone because his defender had to slide to the paint to help on Rui who was rolling to the rim after setting the initial screen for Perkins. It was a great illustration of what Tillie’s return provides in terms of stressing a defense, and makes Gonzaga’s #1 offense (per KenPom) even more dangerous.
  7. Santa Clara’s Tahj Eaddy and Trey Wertz were bottled up in this game, but both are really talented players and will be really fun to watch over the next few seasons as they are both lowerclassmen.
  8. Crandall could provide the on-ball perimeter defense that Gonzaga has sorely lacked for most of the season. He was lively and aggressive, and clearly bothered Wertz and Eaddy when he was covering them.
  9. Matthew Lang and Jack Beach got buckets! The bench mob is undefeated.
  10. Perk dunked, folks.