The legs of the Gonzaga Bulldogs finally gave out in a spectacular fashion in the Battle 4 Atlantis Championship game against the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan dictated the pace the entire stretch of the way, handing Gonzaga its first loss of the season, 82-64.
Things didn’t look great from the get-go, and Gonzaga went into the halftime trailing 36-25. The Gonzaga offense machine truly sputtered for the first time this season as the Michigan defense just denied the Zags every single shot. Gonzaga, which entered the game averaging 1.13 points per possession, scored 0.7 PPP in the first half, with four assists and eight turnovers.
Gonzaga had absolutely no answer for Michigan at any point in the game. Isaiah Livers was devastating from long range, finishing with 21 points and hitting 5-of-8 from long range. Lumbering giant Jon Teske taught Drew Timme and Filip Petrusev a thing or two about how to be a big man down low, finishing with 19 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks, and approximately 800 altered shots. Neither Timme or Petrusev quite figured out how to get anything going down low.
Teske’s enormous shadow altered the shots in the paint, and considering Michigan pretty effectively took away Gonzaga’s three point shot, it made for a rough game for Gonzaga. The Zags shot 60 percent from long range, but only managed to fire off 10 three point attempts during meaningful time. Ayayi added in three more attempts during garbage time, but Michigan’s defense neutralized Gonzaga’s guards in a prominent way.
On the defensive end, the Zags just couldn’t get a stop to save their lives. Michigan hit the wide-open threes Gonzaga allowed and Zavier Simpson dictated the offense as perfectly as possible, finishing with 13 points and 13 assists.
Credit to the Michigan defense, because they took the Zags out of the game almost immediately. Gonzaga finished with a grand total of seven fast break points and zero dunks. In the end, Gonzaga scored just 0.914 points per possession.
Considering what the Bulldogs went through this tournament, it was always a question of when the wheels would fall off, not if. Coming into Wednesday’s contest, Killian Tillie’s knee forced him to sit, and in the next 24 hours, Anton Watson would sprain his ankle, Admon Gilder would tweak his knee, and Ryan Woolridge’s knee would flare up as well. The eight-man rotation became a seven-man rotation, and with the minutes and miles accumulated after the overtime win against Oregon yesterday, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see the Zags look gassed today. Two consecutive turnarounds of less than 24 hours will do that to a team.
After some impressive and dominating wins against worse competition this season, the Zags got us all re-excited with yesterday’s thrilling win over Oregon. Today’s results marks a clear reminder that the Zags have a lot of new faces that still need to figure out how to optimally play together, especially on the defensive end. Even if a few of those point-blank shots by Petrusev rolled in, Gonzaga’s defense didn’t get a single stop on Michigan’s offense. Even if the game was closer, you will never pull off a victory like that.