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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Baylor

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4 wins to go.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Baylor vs Gonzaga Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not often you get to watch historically great performances, but that’s exactly what Brandon Clarke delivered on Saturday against Baylor. Gonzaga looked well-prepared for the Bears in jumping out to a big lead early in the game. In a sick, twisted way, I was also kind of happy that the game didn’t turn out to be another 30+ point blowout thanks to less-than-stellar execution in the second half. Between that second half and the film from last year’s stinker against Florida State, Mark Few and the coaching staff will have more than enough ammunition to go into practice with this week.

  1. Baylor opted not to ice or hedge on Gonzaga’s ball screens in order to take away Clarke, Tillie, and Rui. In doing so, there were plenty of driving lanes available to Perkins and he did well to keep the defense honest by playing aggressively and taking the shots they were conceding to him.
  2. Good awareness by Gonzaga at the defensive end communicating with one another and tracking Baylor’s cutters. The Bears found it difficult to get easy layups and helped generate lots of deflections and loose balls for Gonzaga, which turned into lots of transition opportunities, which turned into lots of dunks and layups at the other end.
  3. Baylor has been exceptional all season long at rebounding their own misses, but the Zags were clearly focused on eliminating their second and third chance opportunities. Baylor’s offense doesn’t operate efficiently enough to stay in the game with only one crack at a shot per possession.
  4. Rui never got into a rhythm thanks to his early foul trouble, and struggled to even catch the ball cleanly or finish through traffic for much of the game. While Tillie’s numbers won’t pop out at you, his availability really helped Gonzaga break down Baylor’s zone and overcome a poor night from Rui.
  5. Corey Kispert was phenomenal. The Bears wanted to play compact and crowd Clarke and Rui inside, but Kispert put them in a bind with his shooting from the arc. Thanks to him and the ever-present threat of Norvell, Baylor was forced to extend itself which created lots of room to get the ball inside and allow Clarke and company to go to work. Kispert was also a menace at the defensive end and helped spark a lot of fastbreak opportunities. It was a complete performance from him, so it was no surprise that Mark Few singled him out as the team MVP during his postgame interview.
  6. While he didn’t have a good shooting performance in the first half, it was curious that the Zags didn’t play over the top of screens for Makai Mason who is always looking to pull the trigger coming off the corner.
  7. Losing Mark Vital to foul trouble for such an extended period of time really crushed any comeback hopes that Baylor may have had. He was their only forward that was up to the task of battling Gonzaga’s frontcourt, and without him the Bears lost their edge on the boards.
  8. I was really pleased with the ease in which Gonzaga dissected Baylor’s zone. The ball made its way inside without any difficulty, and the forwards consistently made the right read in where to go with the ball.
  9. The Zags comfortably won that game while getting nothing from Rui (who had one of his worst games of the season). There are very few teams in the country that can get away with a nothing-burger from their leading scorer in the NCAA Tournament. The fact that the Zags not only got away with it, but still won by double digits speaks volumes. This is an unbelievable team.
  10. Brandon Clarke bullied the Bears with his energy at both ends of the floor. It became apparent very early in the game that Baylor had no chance at slowing him down as he was en route to a historic performance. Clarke’s 35 point, 5 block performance put him alongside elite company in Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson as the only players with that achievement in the NCAA Tournament.