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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over UNC

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12-1

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Was that fun or what? Yes, it wasn’t quite the caliber of competition that both programs hoped for with the wounded Tar Heels just trying to keep the leaking ship afloat without Cole Anthony at the controls. Regardless, Gonzaga and UNC did the basketball world a service by making this game happen. Here’s hoping it’s not the last time we saw the baby blue uniforms in The Kennel.

  1. If both teams were healthy, Gonzaga still wins this game comfortably. The aforementioned Anthony is a sensational player, but none of his teammates are dangerous enough to keep opposing coaching staffs awake at night. While it may not have been a blowout if he was playing, I find it very difficult to imagine that Antony would have changed the outcome.
  2. Smart work early from Petrusev to go right at freshman forward Armando Bacot at the beginning of the game and get him in foul trouble inside the first two minutes. That left the 6’9” Garrison Brooks and Justin Pierce who grad transferred to UNC from William & Mary as Roy Williams’ options to slow down Gonzaga’s skilled bigs. They didn’t do much slowing.
  3. Gonzaga’s offense pretty much did whatever it wanted with just some basic actions against UNC’s defense. The Tar Heels played with great effort, but their defensive communication and execution was lacking. The ball screen coverage wasn’t coordinated, and they struggled to cut off the paint. Roy Williams is going to have his hands full getting his team to the NCAA Tournament if Anthony’s absence extends beyond the originally reported 4-6 week timeline.
  4. On the other hand, Gonzaga’s offense looks much better than it did just a month ago in Atlantis. The Zags are almost impossible to guard when Corey Kispert is aggressive and hitting threes, and Gonzaga’s offense is designed so well that he almost always gets a decent look at some point in the flow of a set.
  5. Gonzaga closed out the second half against Arizona and the first half against UNC so incredibly poorly. Not sure if it’s fatigue, or collectively letting up after taking a double digit lead, but it’s a trend that needs to stop.
  6. The small ball lineup with the three guards on the floor and Kispert at the 4 has worked phenomenally well over the last two games. Neither Arizona or UNC had the personnel to capitalize on the matchups presented by the small lineup, and the Zags didn’t lose any rebounding thanks to how strong the guards are at crashing the boards.
  7. Ayayi has shot the ball pretty well from the arc this season, but I’d like to see him attack the basket more off the dribble rather than settle for some of the 3’s he’s been taking if we’re going to nitpick. He’s so good at finishing around the rim, and he can certainly win off the bounce against most guys that are guarding him.
  8. The Zags were getting caught peeking inside on defense looking to jump passing lanes for steals, and in doing so gave up way too many open looks on the perimeter. I know the Tar Heels came into the game as a terrible shooting team, but you can’t leave guys completely unattended on the perimeter.
  9. Credit to Killian Tillie for gutting out 15 minutes of action that I’m sure were uncomfortable for him considering he sprained his ankle four days prior and still hasn’t fully recovered from his knee surgery that sidelined him for the start of the season. The Zags desperately needed him for the last three games, but hopefully he can use the mini-break after Eastern Washington this weekend to get his body right and ready for March.
  10. It would be absolutely criminal for these two programs not to put another home and home series together. They have history against each other, and now that the barrier is broken, there’s absolutely no reason to make this a one time thing. Make it so.