After a 30-point beating of Alabama State on Tuesday, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are back in action on Saturday night against another SWAC team, the Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions. After dominating inside against LCSC in the exhibition, the Zags used a 28-point outburst from Corey Kispert to guide them in the season opener. What does Saturday have in store?
Meet the Opponent
Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions (0-1, KenPom 341)
The Lions are coached by George Ivory, who is entering his 12th season at the helm. They have finished top three in the SWAC each of the last two seasons, dropping the SWAC Title game in 2018. The bad news this year is that they lost former SWAC Player of the Year and their leading scorer Martaveous McKnight to graduation. They also lost their third leading scorer to graduation, which means points may be hard to come by this season. Case in point: their opening game against South Florida, in which they held a 22-20 lead midway through the first half and ended up losing 70-41. They only made 13 shots and turned the ball over 21 times.
They do have Shaun Doss returning, who averaged 12.7 points last season and scored a team-high 10 points against USF. Beyond him, they are looking for anyone to step up and become a reliable scorer.
What to Watch For
Get Better Every Game
Right now, the focus for Gonzaga is on Gonzaga. Get better at what plagued you last game and continue to grow as a team. The defensive coverages and communication were lacking at times on Tuesday, especially when it came to doubling the post, and it led to open threes. That is something that can, and hopefully will, be shored up as the season moves along. Pine Bluff is not a good offensive team by any stretch of the imagination. A realistic goal should be to hold them under 50 points.
Offensively, Gonzaga has already shown they can dominate inside against inferior opponents. They should do the same against a team that only has one role player above 6’8”. It’s another chance for the new players to play together and prepare themselves for tougher games as they rapidly approach.