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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Santa Clara

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NCAA Basketball: Santa Clara at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga beat Santa Clara by a combined 102 points last season. Despite the Broncos strong play entering this game, it was the same story again in this one as Herb Sendek still hasn’t figured out the Gonzaga riddle.

  1. Consistent with their M.O., of late, Gonzaga dropped bad news in a press release right before tipoff in announcing that Anton Watson would miss the remainder of the season to have surgery on the left shoulder he injured against Texas A&M. This was always how this story was going to end after Watson popped his shoulder out 5-6 (by my count, at least) more times over the next two months as he tried to tough it out to help out his team. The Zags will certainly miss him, but this was absolutely the right move for his long term future.
  2. There was a lot of confusion prior to tipoff when Martynas Arlauskas was announced as a starter in place of Joel Ayayi. That turned out to be an error, as poor Arlauskas went from a starter to not even seeing the floor in the first half!
  3. Gonzaga did a good job of taking advantage of Santa Clara’s defensive switches to generate advantageous matchups, and they exploited them all night long. The offensive execution was crips, with the ball movement and awareness
  4. Gonzaga doesn’t really have anyone that offers the same defensive skillset that Anton Watson provides, so I’m curious to see how the coaching staff tries to replace that production between Ayayi, Kispert, and Timme. The variety amongst those three players tell you a lot about how dynamic a force Watson could be. Considering how limited he was on offense after injuring his shoulder, there shouldn’t be any kind of dropoff in Gonzaga’s offensive game without Watson in the lineup.
  5. This was as good as I’ve seen Killian Tillie look at the defensive end all season, which hopefully means that his knee is improving. He can work around his knee discomfort on offense, but it’s much harder to do that while defending and reacting to an opponent.
  6. One of the small pleasures in watching Ryan Woolridge play is seeing how bad he makes some defenders look with just a simple crossover or feint before driving to the bucket. He literally leaves bodies in his wake.
  7. *Whispers so as not to jinx it* The Zags shot the ball well from the free throw line. More of that please.
  8. Santa Clara was a step slow for most of the evening, and looked completely disinterested in matching Gonzaga’s energy. This was an opportunity for the Broncos to show how serious they are about separating themselves from the mid-tier of the WCC, but the effort they showed against the Zags is not the way to do that.
  9. It was nice to see Gonzaga churn out a pair of strong defensive efforts last weekend, but it’s even better to see them do it against a better team that entered the Kennel with confidence after winning in Moraga in its last game. Keep stringing these performances together, Zags!
  10. Even while stitching together a near perfect first half with a monster lead, Mark Few stuck with a 7-man rotation which is likely what we’ll see from here on out now that Watson’s season is over. Short rotations make me a little uncomfortable, but I’m also not surprised that Few isn’t keen on shaking things up at this point in the year. Expect to simply see an uptick in minutes for Timme and Kispert, the latter of whom already leads the team in minutes per game, and more small ball with Ayayi, Woolridge, and Gilder all on the floor together.