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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win at BYU

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NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Brigham Young Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

What a showing from Gonzaga to hand BYU its worst home loss in as many years as I cared to scroll back through KenPom’s database. This was a fun one to watch, and the scary thing (for opposing teams, not us) is that it feels like the Zags are just getting started. Here’s what I took away from a strong performance in Provo:

  1. Despite the ugly start during the first minute, the sign of this team’s dominance was on full display for the next five. The Zags settled down and found BYU’s perimeter defense to be disorganized, while simultaneously suffocating the Cougars at the other end of the floor.
  2. I feel like I’m starting to become a broken record as I’ve noted it in each of the last few games, but Corey Kispert is playing his best basketball. He was highly disruptive on defense throughout the game, frequently forcing deflections and turnovers with his activity and anticipation. He’s clearly found his rhythm shooting the deep ball, but is also keeping defenses off-balance with his off-ball movement and ability to slash and finish at the rim.
  3. Gonzaga was really aggressive at pushing the tempo and getting the ball up the floor quickly in transition. The coaching staff was clearly comfortable with sacrificing some defensive compactness in order to get guys leaking out to have quick outlets. No surprise that Gonzaga had an 11-3 advantage in fast break points.
  4. BYU’s offense features a lot of initial ball screen action, but oftentimes devolves into a lot of isolation basketball. That is not the recipe to breaking down Gonzaga’s dare-I-say suddenly stout defense? The Zags held BYU to only two assists and 27% shooting from the field in the first half. That’ll do.
  5. It is absolutely ridiculous how good Brandon Clarke is at finishing alley-oops around the rim. He finished a handful of really ones, but the one that stands out was a laser pass from Norvell that he had to reach back for. The body control and hang time was absurd. What an incredible athlete. And just for good measure, he drained a three on the very next possession. He was unstoppable.
  6. BYU’s interior defense was unbelievably poor at picking up cutters. I counted three times when a Zag made a simple cut through the lane and finished with an easy layup. You don’t see such quality finishes off of simple actions that often and at that frequency, but the awareness and adjustments from BYU never materialized.
  7. It wasn’t surprising to see BYU utilize a zone throughout the game. While Gonzaga didn’t deal with it well earlier in the season, the offense has looked much better against it (for the most part) over the last few weeks. The returns of Tillie and Crandall certainly play a part in that improvement, but Kispert’s improvement in form and Norvell exhibiting a bit of judiciousness with his shot selection are big factors as well.
  8. There are very few teams in the country that can reasonably expect to have the level of production from a starting five that Gonzaga’s starting group is able to manufacture. Having four different guys that score 15+ points, while the point guard racks up double digit assists is a coach’s dream.
  9. Gonzaga did an excellent job of bottling up Yoeli Childs. The help defender was always ready, and when the Zags doubled, they effectively took away his angles at the rim or to his preferred passing lanes.
  10. No matter what is going on with the rest of their season, BYU is always dangerous against the Zags. But the Cougars looked completely neutered against this Gonzaga lineup, and I struggled to think of any kind of game plan or scheme that Dave Rose could have cooked up that could have flipped the script. Even though Gonzaga has won 5 straight years in Provo, let’s not take for granted how tough an environment the Marriott Center is to play in.