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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Saint Mary’s

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23-2

NCAA Basketball: St. Mary’s at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It is always fun to beat a rival, but to do it in the manner that Gonzaga did against Saint Mary’s on Saturday night is positively delightful. Sure, it’s somewhat of a transition year for the Gaels, but the level of dominance displayed by the Zags cannot, and should not, be discounted in any manner. It was as good of a game as Gonzaga could possibly play. Does it rise to the level of the win over Duke earlier this year? No, that game was more significant for many reasons while also incredibly exciting. But beating a rival by 48 points makes its own kind of statement, and the rest of the country should probably take notice.

  1. Gonzaga’s ability to immediately throw the ball inside and get easy buckets through Brandon Clarke highlighted the significant gap in frontcourt talent between those teams. SMC simply doesn’t have the personnel to handle Clarke or Rui individually, let alone collectively. Clarke and Rui’s physicality, quickness, and verticality overwhelmed Jordan Hunter, Malik Fitts, and Jock Perry.
  2. There are no surprises between these two coaches regarding the schemes they run, or at least there shouldn’t be. Yet, Saint Mary’s looked completely unprepared for everything Gonzaga was doing at both ends of the floor. I don’t think the Gaels appreciated how talented this Gonzaga team was before tonight. They know now.
  3. The Zags were masterful at tilting the action in their favor. They pushed the tempo at every opportunity and were consistently able to create mismatches with their ball screen actions. It was apparent that the Gaels were uncomfortable with everything they were doing on the floor.
  4. Josh Perkins’ feel and understanding of how to create passing windows was on display all game long. For example, early in the second half he fed Clarke for an and-one dunk with a beautiful pass that materialized because he forced Malik Fitts to step out to him on the free throw line by sucking him in with his eyes.
  5. The Gaels entered Saturday night’s game as the 11th ranked team in offensive efficiency per KenPom. Then consider how Randy Bennett’s offense is designed to operate. For Gonzaga to limit Saint Mary’s to a single assist is completely insane to think about.
  6. There are a lot of things to be delighted from out of this game, but Gonzaga’s ability to keep its edge and continue to press down on Saint Mary’s neck in the second half was the most impressive takeaway. The hunger to dominate never waned and the hallmark of elite killer instinct.
  7. The gap in athletic ability and talent between Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s has probably never been greater, and that disparity couldn’t be bridged by the Gaels with efficiency and high level execution. Randy Bennett’s teams of the last few years were much more adept at controlling tempo and operating their scheme, but his current group was never able to gain a foothold against Gonzaga and execute their sets. They have a long development road ahead of them.
  8. Gonzaga hosted 5-star 2020 recruits Julian Strawther and Jalen Suggs in The Kennel tonight for their official visits. That performance should give them a lot to think about when they visualize what they want out of their collegiate experiences. Some may question whether blowing out one of the supposed better conference foes may be detrimental to a recruit’s impression of the quality of the competition, but if we’re being honest, these guys already have a negative impression of the WCC. Getting a really competitive game from SMC probably isn’t going to change that. What is probably more important to them is (1) how does Gonzaga’s style of play suit their respective skill sets; (2) will they get better playing for this coaching staff; (3) are they going to have opportunities to play on ESPN and get exposure; (4) will they have a good time at this school? I can’t imagine any recruit watching how Gonzaga went about its game plan on Saturday night and thinking to themselves “this style of play doesn’t look very fun.” Gonzaga gets enough games on ESPN/ESPN2, the staff’s track record of player development is one of the best in the country, and the Kennel had it going on.
  9. I was feeling down after Mark Few announced the terrible news about Killian Tillie’s health, and obviously still feel awful for Tillie, but this performance was one hell of a pick-me-up. Let’s hope all the good vibes generated by this win seep into Tillie’s foot and get him back on the floor again this season.
  10. I’m really struggling to decide which play from Saturday night was my favorite. I love them all equally as if they were my children. Rui’s spin-o-rama; Perkins’ oop to Rui; Crandall’s behind-the-back pass to Norvell for a trailing 3; Perkins’ dime to Clarke discussed in #4 above; Perkins’ beautiful needle-threader to a cutting Crandall on the baseline; and Crandall’s off the board oop to Rui were all wonderful. Which one did you like best?

Poll

What was your favorite play from Saturday night?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Rui with the spin cycle
    (212 votes)
  • 3%
    Perk’s oop to Rui to move into second on Gonzaga’s all time assists list
    (29 votes)
  • 38%
    Geno’s behind the back pass to Snacks
    (317 votes)
  • 8%
    Perk’s pass to Clarke for an and-1 dunk
    (70 votes)
  • 4%
    Perk threading the needle to Geno on the baseline for a reverse layup
    (41 votes)
  • 19%
    Geno with the steal and off the glass to Rui for his birthday gift
    (164 votes)
833 votes total Vote Now