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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over USF


NCAA Basketball: San Francisco at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga is playing at a really, really, really high level right now. Let’s never take this for granted:

  1. For the game’s first basket, Brandon Clarke sneakily slipped into an advantageous position inside the restricted circle between Jimbo Lull and the basket because Lull was preoccupied with deciding whether to double Rui as he made his inside post move. Instead of working hard to battle Lull for inside position, Clarke played it smart and ducked inside when Lull turned his head, and put himself in a position to clean up Rui’s miss for an easy layup. That’s why you watch your defender’s eyes.
  2. The Dons made a concerted effort to have a more effective two-way transition game. It was clear they wanted to push the ball on offense more frequently than they typically do to avoid facing Gonzaga’s stingy halfcourt D, and they did a decent job in the first half of beating the Zags down the floor to take away fast break opportunities. Ultimately, however, Gonzaga’s speed and athleticism wore them down as the game progressed.
  3. Rui has struggled against USF throughout his career, and was slow to get going in the first half against a defense that was focusing its efforts on slowing him down. But as highlighted by point #1, that tends to create a lot of opportunities for others, especially Clarke. What was also encouraging was that Rui didn’t get discouraged or disengaged, and produced an excellent second half.
  4. Nice game plan from Gonzaga to vary the defenders Frankie Ferrari saw throughout the game. The Zags weren’t shy about switching on him, and Perkins, Crandall, Clarke, Kispert, Jones, and Tillie all took turns checking him up. When someone sees that many different types of defenders thrown at them, it can really inhibit them from developing any kind of rhythm.
  5. I appreciated the level of physicality and contact that the referees were allowing in the paint. Both teams got to throw their weight around and play a little chippy without the game devolving into a brutish affair, but the lack of whistles allowed the game to maintain a nice flow.
  6. So gutting to see Tillie limp off the floor with an injury to the same foot that sidelined him for the start of the season. Though he was able to run down the floor and then walk off under his own power, he was clearly in discomfort after landing with a lot of stress loaded to his right leg. It was nice to see him come back to the bench after a few minutes, but he was still limping when he came back and he didn’t stand up when he celebrated the bench mob’s buckets at the end of the game (though I appreciate him still waving his towel and cheering them on). After the game, Mark Few told reporters that it was not a recurrence of the stress fracture. A preliminary diagnosis of a foot sprain was offered, but we won’t know the full extent of the damage until Tillie has an MRI.
  7. Crandall looked as comfortable scoring within the flow of the offense as I’ve seen him all season. He could be finding his groove at the right time of the year.
  8. What a nightmarish three-game stretch for USF, who had to play USD, Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga on the road. Of USF”s six losses on the season, only two of them were by double digits. Both those double digit losses came courtesy of Gonzaga.
  9. The Zags have so many guys that are really good at moving without the ball. The combination of physically gifted high IQ players willing to play within the structure of a scheme paired with a coaching staff that is so good at teaching is why Gonzaga’s offense operates at such a ridiculously high level.
  10. Massive congratulations to Brandon Clarke on a record setting night. Not only did he secure Gonzaga’s single season blocks record, his 16 rebounds set a new single game record in the McCarthey Athletic Center. Not a bad exclamation point on a great season, and I suspect that by the end of the year he’ll have put the blocks record completely out of reach.