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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Southern Miss

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NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Gonzaga at Southern Mississippi Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to linger over the last game in the truncated tournament formats. Despite Gonzaga slated to tip off in just a few hours against Oregon in a long awaited matchup, let’s take a quick look back at its opening win against Southern Miss:

  1. Official time of death for Corey Kispert’s slump 5:51 pm P.T.? That was the type of game he needed for his confidence, and the type of game the team needed from him with his cohorts falling like flies during the course of the afternoon. Kispert’s performance bumped his three-point shooting percentage up 10 points to 41.9%. Here’s hoping he carries that into Thursday and Friday as well. As an aside, it looked like Kispert was done for the night at the 10-minute mark in the second half, so I was a bit aghast that Few brought him back in a couple of minutes later. I realize the Zags were pretty shorthanded by the end of the game, but that was even more reason to not play with fire.
  2. Joel Ayayi continues to ball out, and for whatever reason opposing teams continue to lose track of him. He’s proven his rebounding numbers aren’t a fluke, showing a knack for slipping into prime position to grab a board that keeps a possession alive or ignites a transition opportunity the other way. He’s significantly more confident pulling up for a jump shot now, and if his long distance shooting numbers are for real (10-23 3PA, 43.5%), Gonzaga will somehow become even more difficult to defend.
  3. A curious oddity—Filip Petrusev went through the first 10 minutes of the game without attempting a field goal before going 5-5 in the last 10 minutes of the first half. Despite rarely utilizing a two man game playing off each other inside, Petrusev and Drew Timme both feasted on Southern Mississippi’s small frontcourt and demonstrated the vast gap in skill between them and their Golden Eagle counterparts.
  4. The Golden Eagles went into the game as the worst three-point shooting team in the country, which means they of course made their first three attempts from the arc en route to a 50% (11-22 3PA) night.
  5. It was encouraging to see Anton Watson walk off the floor under his own power after rolling his ankle, which leads me to believe the injury is not that severe, but I would be surprised if he was very effective the rest of the week if he’s able to return to action. There is no recovery time in between games and his ankle will almost assuredly feel worse today than it did last night.
  6. Ayayi’s brilliant game masked over a forgettable night for the starting backcourt. Ryan Woolridge picked up 7 assists on the evening but went 0-5 from the field with just 1 point before limping off with about six minutes left in the game with an apparent leg injury. While I fully expect Woolridge to be available for the Oregon game, he looked to be pretty uncomfortable trying to loosen up his leg on a stationary bike under the watchful gaze of a trainer.
  7. It was not readily apparent when and how Admon Gilder got injured. He looked to be moving fine during the first half, but departed 58 seconds into the second half favoring his right knee and wasn’t seen again on the floor or the sideline. With the lack of information coming from Gonzaga beyond reporting he has a “sore knee,” I’m most skeptical about Gilder’s availability and effectiveness for the rest of the week amongst the team’s walking wounded. Gonzaga needs its guards to be at their best over the next two games considering the backcourts they’ll be seeing. In light of the aforementioned health concerns surrounding Woolridge and Gilder, it’s time for Ayayi to save the day.
  8. I know almost nothing about how television broadcasts work, but it would be nice if the broadcasters and/or their producers could commit to discussing the actual game being played in front of them for at least half the time. Is that too much to ask? Maybe a quarter of the game? There are studio shows for a reason, and there are in-game commenters for a reason. They are supposed to serve different functions. I get that this game became a blowout pretty quickly, but there was a lot happening on the injury front that went undiscussed on air. Additionally, I’m guessing Southern Miss doesn’t get a lot of airtime on ESPN and its fans would have appreciated a little more discussion about their team.
  9. It’s a strange thing to play basketball in a hotel ballroom. The ceiling is really low, the sight lines are messed up, the air doesn’t circulate properly, players have to stretch and warm up in a hotel corridor, and playing in front of a crowd of 1500 fans is...different. All those factors combined can be highly disruptive to an athlete’s routine, and the teams that handle it best are the ones that succeed.
  10. Shout out to Matthew Lang for ensuring that Gonzaga covered the spread with his three-ball in the final seconds of the game. Hero.