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

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29-2

Gonzaga v St Mary’s Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
  1. As was the case in the first game between these two teams, Saint Mary’s had no answer for Rui and Clarke’s athleticism. The only thing that helped them slow down the Rui/Clarke tandem was foul trouble, which relegated Clarke to the bench for the last 7:36 of the first half.
  2. Credit to Josh Perkins for hunting his shots and getting into the paint when the halfcourt offense wasn’t running smoothly. The Gaels didn’t want to step up on him because they didn’t want to get beat over the top by Rui and Clarke. Instead of forcing the ball into windows that weren’t open, he made SMC pay.
  3. Gonzaga’s defensive pressure on the perimeter was better than Thursday’s less-than-stellar outing, but there were still plenty of possessions where help assignments were missed and shooters were lost.
  4. Saint Mary’s needed Jordan Ford to not be M.I.A. in this game like he was in the last, and when he’s scoring as he did in the first half it’s amazing how competent their offense can look. Once Gonzaga neutralized him in the second half, though, any chance of an upset went out the window. The Gaels simply don’t have any other player that Gonzaga needed to game plan around.
  5. It was evident that limiting Gonzaga in transition was a massive point of emphasis for Saint Mary’s. If the Zags didn’t get an immediate outlet pass up the floor after a change of possession, the Gaels were beating them down the floor and doing a decent job of clogging the paint.
  6. Despite how ugly things looked in the first half, you have to admire Gonzaga’s composure and confidence. The team never panicked, and they showed in the second half that they’re able to self-correct in a hostile environment.
  7. It’s been well-documented on here that defense has not been Filip Petrusev’s calling card this season, but it looks like he’s significantly regressed in the last few weeks. This was easily his worst game of the season. Sweet buzzer beater to end the first half though. That was a vintage Dirk Nowitzki move.
  8. On the f(i)lip side (see what I did there?), Brandon Clarke was an absolute menace on the defensive (and offensive) end in the second half. He locked up the WCC Defensive Player of the Year award a long time ago, but he showed why when he had no problem staying in front of Jordan Ford in isolation on the perimeter, forcing one of the more slippery guards in the WCC to give up the ball on one possession and blocking him on another.
  9. Gonzaga’s defensive efficiency ranking over at KenPom improved from 24th to 15th after this game, which happens when you hold a Top-20 team in offensive efficiency to 0.87 points per possession.
  10. We saw several Zags slipping throughout the game, and my wild speculation led me to conclude that Randy Bennett coated the floor in lubricant to slow down Gonzaga’s high flyers. I’m not totally ready to discard that theory, but a much more likely explanation is that Saint Mary’s mickey mouse operation in overselling this game is to blame. If one of our players got injured because they slipped in that trash gym, I would have done some terrible things.