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10 Observations from Northwestern State 2.0

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NCAA Basketball: Northwestern State at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Ten more thoughts about a game probably none of us want to think about? Happy holidays my friends. Here is what stood out from the second night of playing the Northwestern State Demons.

1) Oh boy that second half. The Demons scored 61 points in the half, the most points scored against the Zags in a half since 2010. After trying to play a slower pace for the better part of three halves, Mike McConathy just tore up the playbook and let it fly. The result: 10-of-13 from long range and a final score that was respectable instead of embarrassing. If Gonzaga looked a bit lazy at times on Monday night, I’m not sure what we can call last night.

2) Part of the beauty of scheduling this game for the second time around is it let the coaching staff tinker with the lineups a bit. After not seeing much of the bench at all in the first four games of the year, we got to see 12 minutes of Dominick Harris and nine minutes of Julian Strawther. The big change was Andrew Nembhard getting the start over Anton Watson. Nembhard, on the offensive end, couldn’t capitalize too well, finishing with just four points on a rough 2-of-8 shooting night.

3) Whatever the coaching staff said to Watson during halftime on Monday night did the trick. Watson has had a bit of an inconsistent year, but he was stellar tonight, finishing with 10 points, four rebounds, three steals, and one block in 21 minutes. Most importantly, he was using his defensive prowess to generate immediate offense. The buckets will fall for the young man, and as long as he can continue to cause havoc on the defensive end he has a spot in the rotation.

4) Jalen Suggs picked up his second technical of the game with one of the weakest whistles I have ever seen in my life. You be the judge.

5) Speaking of Suggs, he had a great night, but he also had a freshman night. That is why these easier home games are so important. On consecutive offensive possessions, Suggs rattled off a wild pass to Aaron Cook, who collided with the ref while trying to corral it, resulting in a turnover. On the next possession, Suggs tried to lob a pass on a fast break to Anton Watson that went off the backboard into the Demons’ hands. Even if Watson caught the ball, he would’ve either been behind the hoop or out of bounds. In both situations, the passes were not good choices.

6) Speaking of Suggs some more, he’ll have those freshmen brainfarts, but it is the beauty of the rest of his game that makes it all worth it. Let’s not forget, he finished with 19 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals, and a block. One of those steals came after picking off a pass at midcourt for the easy bucket. Then, as Northwestern State hurried it down court for a quick shot, Suggs sprinted and blocked the three-point attempt.

7) It is looking more and more like the three-point barrage against Iowa was more of an anomaly. Gonzaga shot a respectable 8-of-21 from three-point on Monday night, but was just 4-of-18 last night. Kispert was 2-of-5, Suggs 1-of-4, and Harris 1-of-1. If you take out the Iowa game, the Zags are shooting 29% as a team from three-point this season.

8) Listen, I’m a huge fan of Oumar Ballo, perhaps too much so. At this rate, he just isn’t looking ready for prime time. Ballo played just five minutes, and although he played hard for those five minutes, he wasn’t able to make much of an impact on either the offensive or defensive end. That leaves the Zags rather thin up front, but that might not be too big of a deal. Last season, Timme averaged 4.1 fouls per 40 minutes. This season, through six games, he is averaging 2.67 fouls per game. Few can probably roll through most of the season with Watson or Julian Strawther getting spot minutes at center until Ballo is ready. Until then, I don’t think we should expect more than a few minutes a game from the big man.

9) Pavel Zakharov and Martynas Arlauskas both rode the bench for the entire game, which of course means that some people think either A) Mark Few hates them, or B) They are going to transfer. Might I pull up mystery choice C) This team literally had COVID rolling through its ranks for the better part of two weeks and the two of the might still be recuperating, you know, in the way where you have the flu and are still winded for a few days after. Of course, this is just uninformed conjecture. Just throwing it out there.

10) Special shout-out to Northwestern State for taking a second game they did not need to take. That makes three straight games for the Demons, and five games in seven days. I know a lot of us are upset with the result of the second game, but the Zags need these learning contests (in which they can afford to make a few mistakes without losing) to work out the kinks for that natty.