Out of all of the players on the Gonzaga Bulldogs roster, sophomore forward/guard Corey Kispert is probably the person who gets the least amount of attention.
At least that is what happened during the second round win over the Baylor Bears. While Brandon Clarke was dunking his way to 36 points, Kispert hit 4-of-6 from long range to finish second on the team in points, more than Zach Norvell, Rui Hachimura, and Josh Perkins.
Just like Zach Norvell in the second win over Ohio State last season, Kispert is picking the best time to showcase his abilities on the offensive end. During a NCAA Tournament game, if the Zags’ leading scorer is held to 14 points less than normal, one wouldn’t be far off thinking Gonzaga is in trouble.
Alas, thanks to Kispert, that didn’t happen. Kispert drained the open looks when asked. He attacked the boards with a ferocity that surprised Baylor, even getting an open put-back at one point. He played 35 minutes, two short of his season high against Tennessee, not out of necessity, but because he was that good.
Mark Few immediately took note and gave the proper accolades.
“As I said afterwards, BC was spectacular tonight, but he’s been spectacular a lot of times this year. But Corey Kispert was our player of the game, which is – the things we asked him to do, rebounding-wise, in defense, and then to step up to make those big shots was huge.”
The battle for rebounds, especially on the defensive end, was an important factor against Baylor. The Zags don’t have a lot of weaknesses, but they haven’t been the strongest on the defensive glass—a factor Baylor, as a stellar offensive rebounding team, hoped to exploit. Kispert finished with five defensive rebounds in the game, the top mark on GU.
Quietly, Kispert has played rather fine on the offensive end this season. He has established himself as the most consistent three point threat of the long range shooters by a slight margin, hitting 38 percent on the season.
Kispert will have his hands full against Florida State. Both Terance and Phil Cofer (if he returns to the team since his father passed away—our condolences) are dudes, and Kispert is not exactly known for his defensive prowess. However, if he is able to continue as an offensive threat, especially from long range, his value increases exponentially. The Seminoles have such an incredible athleticism at all positions, especially up front, Gonzaga will have to rely more on three pointers than they tend to like this season.
For Kispert to have a game like he did on Saturday is important to continue the March run. The Zags are in the Sweet 16 for the fifth-straight year. All cylinders have to fire from here on out to keep playing to the next round.