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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win at USD

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NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at San Diego Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

34 straight conference road wins is wild. That’s an impressive streak with four different Gonzaga teams (including the current one) going undefeated on the road in WCC play. The last road loss came four years ago on January 21, 2016 at Saint Mary’s, a game that Gonzaga really should have won (I’m not bitter about it or anything). The Zags held a double digit lead midway through the second half in that one before letting it slip away in the closing minutes. Anyway...we’re talking about USD in 2020:

  1. Significantly better effort from Gonzaga at the defensive end in all aspects. On pick-n-roll defense, there was much better executing in showing and recovering quickly; strong anticipation to get in the passing lanes (12 steals in this game!); and a more cohesive approach to stopping penetration.
  2. There was a clear emphasis in the game plan to get the ball into the post as the bigs were consistently able to establish deep position against an overmatched USD front line. Another positive with this game plan is that with the emphasis on post opportunities, GU didn’t settle for many subpar shots on the perimeter.
  3. The Zags put on a clinic in transition basketball, not even relying solely on turnovers and fastbreak opportunities, but manufacturing quasi fast breaks after made baskets. What makes it work so well is that everyone is on the same page.
  4. Corey Kispert’s improved passing in the pick-n-roll game is paying dividends, as the Toreros were dropping under screens to take away the roll option for him. That gifted Kispert some wide open looks at the three-point line, which is a baffling defensive decision.
  5. Encouraged to see Anton Watson play with more aggressiveness which suggests he’s feeling more confident in his shoulder. That doesn’t mean he’s in the clear, but it’s good to see him have a greater impact on the floor.
  6. Ryan Woolridge’s steal, fake, and layup late in the first half has to be one of the Top 5 plays of the year. That was a nasty sequence.
  7. Really mature offensive performance from Joel Ayayi in a lot of areas of the game. He didn’t force anything that wasn’t there, and his pick-n-roll play was really solid. He’s had a strong start to conference play, and it’s awesome how reliable and well-rounded he’s become in such a short time.
  8. Total dominance by Gonzaga on the boards (47 to 27). Owning the glass and the paint is a pretty good recipe for success.
  9. I love seeing the bench guys got some extended run. Their execution was quite sloppy in the closing minutes of the game, but these are reps for the future and validates the effort they’re putting in now behind the scenes.
  10. Good focus from the entire team in executing early in the game. After the disappointing play last weekend, it was important to wash that bitter feeling out right away and the Zags accomplished that against USD. Everything was cleaner about the performance in this game, and hopefully it serves as a springboard for the rest of WCC play.