Gonzaga was finally back in action yesterday after a nearly three week COVID pause, but you wouldn’t have known it as they outgunned the Hawkeyes in a matchup between two of the nation’s top offensive juggernauts. So how did the Zags come away victorious in this slugfest? Well let’s take a look back at the game (sorry, no corporate sponsored preseason tourney name attached to this one):
1. Everyone was wondering how the Zags would come out after such an unusual break in their schedule. While the first few minutes did have some sloppy turnovers and offensive play, the team pretty quickly shook off the rust, and the offense soon picked up into the crisp, fast paced game we’re used to.
2. So it turns out that Luka Garza is good at basketball. Like really good. Gonzaga did a job defending Garza, especially in the first half, by mixing up their defensive looks and rotating on double teams. While they were able to keep him from controlling the game on that end of the floor, he was still able to put up 30 points by the end of 40 minutes.
3. Coming into this game, it was expected that Iowa would have the advantage from the three point line. The Hawkeyes came in shooting 40 percent from deep, but managed just 4 threes in 21 attempts, while Gonzaga went 13-for-26. While they aren’t going to be shooting 50% on three pointers all season, if they can continue to be a threat from beyond the arc, it adds another layer to this already potent offense.
4. Speaking of potent offense, the Zags once again showcased the ball movement and transition play that makes them so fun to watch. There were loads of pretty passes in this game, and one of the big keys is the versatility throughout the lineup. Virtually every player that steps on the floor for the Zags has solid passing ability, and this really allows the team to adapt and get creative on the offensive end.
5. Yes, it’s only been four games, but it seems like every game Jalen Suggs shows more and more why he was a top recruit. We all knew about his explosive athleticism and ability to play both ends of the floor, but his laser show from beyond the arc was a bit of a surprise. Suggs is a great all around player and if he can continue to be consistent from deep, opposing defenses better duck and cover.
6. While Suggs is the star power, it is also very clear that Joel Ayayi is the glue guy on this team. He somehow put up 11 points, six assists and 18 (!) rebounds without being the star of the show, which shows both the depth of this team but also Joel’s ability to excel in the role he is in. #A11aboard .
7. Gonzaga’s depth is immediately apparent when you take a look at the box score. Five players scored in double figures, with a sixth, Aaron Cook, scoring nine. Eight different players scored, and six different players had multiple assists. This is the kind of depth that takes teams deep in March.
8. If there were any major concerns in this game, they came down to turnovers and free throw shooting. The ball control isn’t as big of a deal; you’re going to turn it over when you play at the pace Gonzaga does, and some of those turnovers could be chalked up to early game rust. However, we better hope that shooting 58 percent from the line is an aberration and not a trend.
9. The Zags have a quick tune-up against Northwestern State on Monday before another big non-conference game next Saturday against Virginia. I perked up as soon as this game was announced. Not only is every opportunity for Gonzaga to get a big opponent in the non-conference huge, but this matchup features two teams who could not be more different in their styles of play. It will be fun to see how these two teams attack each other.
10. Watching this game on CBS meant I could hear the best sports theme song in all of television. There is nothing sweeter than hearing the college basketball on CBS theme again, especially for a game of this caliber. After we were robbed of March Madness this past season, this little touch got me even more excited for what this team can accomplish in the next few months.