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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win at Texas A&M

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 12 North Dakota at Gonzaga Photo by Robert Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Gonzaga Bulldogs completed their home-and-home series with Texas A&M by easily dispatching a rebuilding Aggies team that doesn’t have much of a basketball identity at the moment. These two teams have played three times in the last five years, beginning with a matchup at the Battle 4 Atlantis in 2015, but the two programs have gone in different directions since that time.

Despite losing a ton of talent, the reloaded Zags cruised after a slow start to the game. Here’s what else I took away from the Friday night win:

  1. Gonzaga was finding driving lanes hard to come by in the early going which stymied the offensive flow. There appeared to be an adjustment period for them as they moved from their tune up games to better and longer athletes.
  2. Flip Petrusev struggled throughout the night with A&M’s double teams. He needs to do a better job of feeling the double coming and being decisive before he can get trapped.
  3. It took Gonzaga a few possessions, but they eventually made the adjustment to capitalize on how aggressively A&M was overplaying initial passing and driving lanes on the defensive end. Ball fakes and back cuts started to create a lot of scoring opportunities and they had a lot more success moving the ball and using off ball movement to dissect the defense rather than dribble drive actions.
  4. It was awesome to see the most inexperienced guys on the roster in Drew Timme, Anton Watson, and Joel Ayayi settling down the squad and getting the offense back on track with their poise after the tough stretch before the first media timeout.
  5. Gonzaga’s defense really clamped down after the first media timeout and A&M couldn’t get any penetration or create any creases in Gonzaga’s defense. Zags kept everything in front of them and extended out to the perimeter. A&M is missing a creator that can unlock a defense.
  6. Ayayi was a spark off the bench again, creating chaos on defense, forcing turnovers, crashing the boards (6 rebounds in first half) while stressing A&M’s defense on the other end with his speed and ability to put the defense on its heels. He was an absolute menace.
  7. The Zags built a 21-point lead at the break despite Corey Kispert going 0-7 and contributing 0 points in the first half. The backcourt trio proved to be very reliable and capable of picking him up despite the off night. Even though he was cold the whole game, I was glad to see Kispert continue to shoot the ball and not get down on himself.
  8. Just so impressed with Timme’s hands. There was a play about midway through the second half where he snagged a deflected pass from Ayayi that was coming in hot and in close quarters. He grabbed the ball cleanly and immediately went to a high position for a quick finish before the help defender could contest.
  9. I knew going into this game that A&M was a bad three-point shooting team, but it was still pretty stunning how bad they really are from the arc during the course of the game. They had a number of open looks in the game because the Zags weren’t respecting them from long distance, and they didn’t even come close to making them.
  10. The Zags didn’t press the issue in terms of dictating the pace or maintaining the defensive pressure in the second half, and the collective focus seemed to wane at times. It’s understandable considering the lead, but it will be interesting to see if/how quickly this team develops a killer instinct over the course of the season.