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10 Observations from Gonzaga-CSU Bakersfield

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Gonzaga rolled over CSU-Bakersfield on Saturday night in their final tune-up before heading to the Bahamas and facing top 25 competition. Last night’s game was certainly not the prettiest, but nobody can complain too much about 30 point victories. Here are 10 observations from Gonzaga’s 26th consecutive regular season win:

  1. Gonzaga won this game with their stingy defense, and that seems to be a trend early this season. They forced a whopping 27 turnovers, several of which were shot clock violations. It’s obviously early, but their 22.9 turnover percentage is the highest of the Mark Few era. Their DER (defensive efficiency rating) of 0.70 was their second best mark of the season, just behind Texas A&M.
  2. It was great to see Joel Ayayi rebound from his worst performance of the season against UT Arlington. He led the team in minutes with a career-high 31. He scored 10 points and had a couple steals. He looked a lot more confident with the ball and he probably uses ball fakes better than anyone else on the team.
  3. Sometimes it’s nice to play these lower mid-major schools because they show so many different defenses. Arlington showed a one-man zone on Ryan Woolridge, something they could see again. Last night, Bakersfield showed a 2-3 zone, a match-up zone, and a full court press. All of these defenses are good to see before they get to tougher competition playing those.
  4. On that same note, it’s nice to have a cushion for Gonzaga to experiment themselves. On Saturday, they toyed with an extended 2-3 zone, with Anton Watson and Ayayi on the top of it. Talk about length!
  5. There was no real need for Gonzaga to double the post, but they did so to start the second half. It’s something they have struggled with in multiple games now. In the first couple games of the season, the rotations were slow to get to three-point shooters. On Saturday, they allowed open cutters for dunks. If they’re going to double the post against Armando Bacot of UNC, or Isaiah Stewart of UW, or Zeke Nnaji of Arizona, they’ve got to be a lot tighter.
  6. Killian Tillie is so good. Mark Few has called him a “problem solver” for quite awhile and it’s easy to see on the court. He alters and blocks shots defensively and he opens up everyone else on the offensive end. His high-low action with Filip Petrusev and Drew Timme is nearly unstoppable. But he can also handle the ball at the top of the key. They ran multiple roll-and-replace actions to get him an open three and they also ran a little curl off Tillie to get Corey Kispert his only bucket of the night.
  7. Speaking of Kispert, there’s no question he is in a funk. He was out 30 minutes prior to everyone else last night to get up shots and he looked like the confident Kispert that scored 28 points in the opener. But once the ball tipped, he couldn’t hit anything. He’s 2-for-17 from deep in his last three games and has totaled 10 points, five turnovers and an average offensive rating of 54. To put it bluntly, the Bulldogs need Kispert to get right to have a chance to win the Battle for Atlantis.
  8. Filip Petrusev had another solid night, scoring 15 points to go with seven rebounds and four assists. Petrusev has a 100+ offensive rating and double figure scoring in all six games this season. He is now sixth in KenPom’s player of the year rankings. The big man draws 7.5 fouls per game, good for 28th in the nation, and he’s shooting a solid 74 percent from the line.
  9. The rest of the team from the line? Not so hot. They followed up their 17-for-30 performance on Tuesday with a 25-for-39 output. They have shot above 70 percent just once in their first six games. With huge games on the horizon expected to be decided by single digits, those free throws could be the difference (thank you, captain obvious).
  10. And now it’s time to get serious. After Southern Miss on Wednesday, the Zags will get a top 15 showdown on Thanksgiving with either Seton Hall or Oregon. The Ducks have been one of the most impressive teams in the early season. Peyton Prichard is one of the best point guards in the country, Anthony Mathis is 20-for-31 from deep, Chris Duarte provides great size at the wing, and Francis Okoro is a beast on the glass. And they’re doing all of this without five-star big man N’Faly Dante, who is suspended the first nine games. Seton Hall, on the other hand, has arguably the best player in the nation in Myles Powell, who scored 37 against Michigan State two weeks ago. They also have a legit seven footer who blocks three shots a game. Regardless of who Gonzaga gets, they will have their hands full. It’s time to see what they’re really made of.