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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Washington


NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Washington Lindsey Wasson-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t as close as last year’s contest in The Kennel which came down to a Rui Hachimura jumper at the elbow at the buzzer, but it was still a tight one that required some gutsy shots from the Zags in the closing minute to close out the Huskies. In doing so, the Zags stay undefeated against the Pac-12 this season with the chance to go 3-0 when they travel to Tucson next weekend to play the Arizona Wildcats. Here’s what I took away from Gonzaga’s road win at the Alaska Airlines Arena:

  1. There are many reason why Mark Few calls Killian Tillie his “problem-solver,” and all those reasons were on display in this game. Tillie has the perfect skillset for breaking down a zone defense. His height, vision, and passing ability allow the Zags to deploy him at the top of the arc and exploit any seam in the zone. Coupled with his ability to hit the three or dribble in for a pull-up/floater, he’s a scheme wrecker against the zone.
  2. I was really pleased with Gonzaga’s early manipulation of the zone with effective diagonal passing and ball fakes. This allowed the Zags to consistently find soft spots in the zone and everyone did a good job of recognizing these spaces and sitting in them with their off-ball movement.
  3. Excellent work on the glass by the guards in Woodridge and Ayayi. The game plan clearly called for them to drop to the block and help out with the rebounding battle against UW’s length while the forwards primary task was to win the box out battle and let the guards grab clean boards.
  4. Gutsy effort from Anton Watson to get back on the floor just a week and a half after sustaining what Mark Few called a pretty serious ankle sprain. He’s definitely not anywhere close to 100% based on the way he was moving on the floor, but the Zags were in desperate need for some minutes off the bench to buy some rest for Kispert and Tillie. Even though he wasn’t at his best, he was still able to contribute defensively and hopefully didn’t experience any setbacks.
  5. He had a couple of suboptimal turnovers, but otherwise Ryan Woolridge was excellent in this game and was a playmaker on both ends of the floor. He appears to have put his health woes behind him, and was consistently wreaking havoc. UW had a difficult time keeping track of him and paid for it.
  6. The short corner is almost always open against UW’s zone and the Zags took advantage by consistently having cutters working backdoor and sitting in that soft spot.
  7. The Gonzaga defense forced a lot of turnovers (19) but only turned those into 10 fastbreak points. It felt like there were a lot of buckets left on the table, and it’s the transition game that typically allows Gonzaga to put together its knockout run which never came in this game. If not for the turnovers, this game would have looked really different as Gonzaga’s halfcourt defense was really disappointing. The scouting report likely said that UW is not a good three-point shooting team, which is true, but the Zags regularly fell asleep on the perimeter, particularly in the second half.
  8. It’s nowhere near as bad as the Romar era, but I’m still underwhelmed with the basketball discipline displayed by the Huskies.
  9. The UW pair of Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels unsurprisingly proved to be a handful for the Zags. They’re difficult matchups and play off each other well. Don’t expect to see them play again in this rivalry series.
  10. The Zags were absolute nails down the stretch. Even though it got down to a one-possession game multiple times down the stretch, they never looked uncomfortable and had the confidence of a team that knew it was going to walk out of that arena with a win.