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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Detroit Mercy

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NCAA Basketball: Detroit at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

With a solid win over Antoine Davis and the Detroit Mercy Titans, the Gonzaga Bulldogs should be pleased with how they closed out the non-conference portion of their schedule and the 2019 calendar year. You never know what you’ll get in the first game back after a holiday and extended layoff, but the Zags were ready to play right from the outset and look primed for a strong start to WCC play.

  1. Detroit Mercy looked completely incapable of defending the post. This was probably the easiest game that Petrusev and Timme will have all season. They got position wherever they wanted with minimal resistance, and the Titans simply lacked the length to contest any of their looks at the rim.
  2. I have to give Petrusev a shoutout for a possession near the end of the first half where he sprinted down the floor to win deep position in the paint and draw a foul and two free throw attempts before five seconds had even ticked off the shotclock. Don’t see that too often. This also led Greg Heister to asking whether Petrusev was the best big Gonzaga has ever had at running the floor, prompting eye rolls from Dan Dickau and Richard Fox that I could feel, if not see, all the way from my couch.
  3. Drew Timme is next in a great line of Gonzaga bigs with the talent to be an excellent post passer. He has room for growth, but shows a good feel for where defenders are coming from and the vision to find his open teammates. At the defensive end he looked a bit uncomfortable being away from the rim and got beat back door twice before the first media timeout, but I’m sure it was a valuable learning experience for him.
  4. The first half ball movement from Gonzaga was phenomenal. The Zags were consistently able to get wide open looks by moving the ball quickly and decisively, and the unselfishness in the group is a trademark characteristic of Mark Few’s teams.
  5. Ryan Woolridge’s defense on Antoine Davis was excellent in the first half, as Davis struggled to find much airspace. Davis ultimately got his points, with 20 of his 31 coming in the second half, as he’s a talented scorer with a permanent green light, but Woolridge was effective while also lighting it up himself on the offensive end with the best rhythm and balance that I’ve seen from his shot all season. Mark Few wasn’t being hyperbolic when he labeled Woolridge as the best defender he’s had at the point guard position.
  6. Anton Watson looked more confident moving around in this game so hopefully he’s nearing full health with his ankle (I suspect his shoulder might be problematic all season), but he still looks uncertain with the ball. He’s not much of a shooting threat at this point, but if he can get back to form he’ll be able to provide chaos off the bench.
  7. Corey Kispert had a beautiful pass to Timme on a pick and roll midway through the first half. That’s an overlooked area that he has developed since his freshman year, and will pay dividends for him if opposing defenses have to respect that aspect of his game. His shot wasn’t falling in this game, but he still made a positive impact on the game with 5 rebounds and 4 assists with just 1 turnover.
  8. Admon Gilder is 11-19 from the three-point line over the last four games, and looks to be rounding into form as his health has improved over the last few weeks.
  9. Gonzaga will have to get it done with their offense this season as the team defense is wholly uninspiring, especially when Killian Tillie isn’t in action. Without Tillie on the floor, the rim protection is lacking which creates cracks throughout the whole system as the guards begin to drift deeper into the post to help. When they come to help, however, the frequently get caught in between as they don’t come hard enough to dig and disrupt and get so far out of position that they can’t rotate or close back out on the perimeter.
  10. The individual pieces would suggest that this should be a really strong defensive unit, even without an elite rim protector, but through 15 games the whole has been less than the sum of its parts at that end of the floor.