Roxy Bernstein mentioned it several times tonight, but Gonzaga’s year in, year out consistency has been incredible. With tonight’s 26 win in 27 games, Gonzaga is well on the way to their fourth 30-win season in a row and their sixth in the past eight seasons. The Zag have also won at least 25 games in 20 of the past 22 seasons. They won 24 games in 02-03 and 23 games in 06-07.
1. The Pepperdine game has historically been a place where a number of NBA scouts have been in attendance and has helped facilitate the Gonzaga/Lakers pipeline (Turiaf, Morrison, Sacre, Harris, JWIII, Norvell, David Stockton). It’s really a shame Killian Tillie missed this game and hopefully it doesn’t damage his NBA draft stock.
2. Speaking of the NBA, Filip Petrusev looked tougher and more aggressive last night than in any other game I remember seeing him play. I’m always torn on if he’s ready to take his game to the next level, he can simultaneously look highly skilled, tough and aggressive but then get his shot rejected much smaller players and fail to complete a fast break because he doesn’t dunk on a guard. With that said, if he isn’t WCC Player of the Year, it will be an injustice.
3. You can often see the strategy opposing coaches implement hoping to beat a superior Gonzaga team. Last year, Randy Bennet had success in the WCC final packing the middle and forcing GU to try and win on outside shots. Some teams slow the pace, some always double the post, some play zone and press. Last night for some reason, Lorezo Romar seemed to want to go toe to toe with Gonzaga and try the beat them at their own game, a fast paced up-and-down the floor battle. I could see it if the Waves were a deeper team trying to tire the short-handed Zags, but they only played eight players and there was no way their squad could match Gonzaga’s talent.
4. Corey Kispert was an assassin last night. His two first half 3’s kept Gonzaga in the lead when they were in jeopardy of losing it and his three 3’s in the second half kept them in control. He also led the team with five assists. He wasn’t 1st team all-WCC in the preseason but he damn sure should be to end the year.
5. Joel Ayayi’s struggles continued in the first half but his rebounding was still a value to the team. He broke out of his scoring slump with 11 second half points, but he made some senseless mistakes with turnovers, bad shots and silly fouls. Maybe he was trying too hard to overcome the slump he’d been in the past couple of games, but Joel always seems to play better when he slows down, let’s the game come to him and makes good decisions.
6. Speaking of good decision making, Gonzaga was hampered tonight with 12 turnovers, four on Ryan Woolridge with several coming as he, Kispert and Ayayi tried dribbling through a crowded key. Normally it would be concerning but the run and gun nature of the fast-paced game mitigates some of the sloppy play.
7. With Tillie out, Martynas Arlauskas made an appearance at the twelve-minute mark in the first half. In his eight minutes of play, he did get an offensive rebound, was fouled and hit one of two free throws. Though Arlauskas isn’t ready for meaningful contributions this season, he’s seems to be two inches taller than advertised standing nearly as tall as Drew Timme when they are side by side. He is also almost always standing during a game appearing to be one of the most enthusiastic supporters of his teammates. He may be supplanted for playing time by one of the freshman next season, but he definitely has the potential, attitude and size to be a future star.
8. Admon Gilder was caught deep in the post on three occasions against bigger players and all resulted on him being scored on and him committing a foul. I’m not sure what happened, but help defense from both Petrusev and Timme was slow. This is an area where the loss of Tillie really hampers the team. Tillie is excellent at providing weak side help and also good at getting blocks in those situations.
9. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, Gonzaga’s consistency has been remarkable. Auburn, Louisville and Butler all lost games they were favored to win last night but Gonzaga keeps plugging away winning the games they should. Sure Mizzou, Clemson and Georgetown have a higher KenPom ranking than Pepperdine, but none of the three are higher than St Mary’s or BYU and they are on par with USF and Pacific.
10. If Gonzaga get beat during conference play this season, the best chance will be at Provo next Saturday. BYU didn’t look very sharp tonight squeaking by San Diego with a 72-71 win, but 18,000 screaming white-shirted fans always make Provo a daunting place to play. It will be interesting to see if Killian Tillie plays against USF or if Mark Few sits him until Saturday.