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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Pacific

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NCAA Basketball: Pacific at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Zags are hot. After that suboptimal opening weekend to WCC play, Mark Few’s team is locked in and firing on all cylinders. With just one game this week, Gonzaga was fresh and quick to pounce on the visiting Tigers:

  1. Interesting decision by the coaching staff to have Killian Tillie start as Jahlil Tripp’s primary defender. You can understand the rationale behind it with Tillie’s length, strength, and ability to move his feet to keep Tripp in front of him, and the move signaled a vote of confidence in Tillie’s physical condition even though the staff didn’t ask him to shadow Tripp all game long.
  2. Filip Petrusev didn’t look too worse for the wear despite his sprained ankle. His game doesn’t rely on explosive athleticism, but he was moving around aggressively and didn’t appear to be favoring his ankle at all. Props to Dr. Kispert for diagnosing him correctly after the BYU game. The Tigers tried running a lot of screen and roll coverage at Petrusev to test his ankle, and smartly so, but he didn’t look compromised at all and Gonzaga’s defense wasn’t at all hindered by any possible deficiency in his movement.
  3. Pacific struggled mightily with defending Gonzaga’s high-low action. Pairing that with the 4-out actions they ran when Kispert slid to the 4 and Gonzaga moved to a small-ball lineup kept the Tigers on their heels from a defensive standpoint.
  4. Bold strategic choice by Pacific to let Killian Tillie have any daylight at the three-point line. That was a near flawless performance from the senior.
  5. Pacific did a good job of preventing Gonzaga from getting a lot of fastbreak points, but they still lost by double figures which tells you just how difficult it is to slow down Gonzaga’s offense.
  6. It’s awesome to see how much more confident Ryan Woolridge is at launching threes compared to just two months ago. The Zags needed him to be a legitimate three from the arc, and he’s worked hard on that area of his game to deliver.
  7. Another excellent game for Joel Ayayi who is playing his way to the NBA after this season.
  8. Corey Kispert’s comfort with being the point-man in the pick-n-roll continues to grow, and he’s getting cleaner with his footwork coming off the screen to put himself in prime position to either pull up or drive to the rim while preserving his passing angle to the roller.
  9. I know the scoreline says otherwise, but this Pacific team is much better than the last few versions we’ve seen (don’t forget the Zags held them to 36 points in this game last season). Credit to Damon Stoudamire for sticking with his project.
  10. The Zags played like a team that still deserves to have a #1 next to their name.