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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s loss at BYU

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27-2

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Brigham Young Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

BYU has spoiled Gonzaga’s senior night twice in the last six seasons, so it would have been really nice to return the favor in this one in a building that was raucous from the outset. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, as the Cougars outworked and outplayed the Zags to earn the victory:

  1. You could see that both teams struggled to disengage from the atmosphere in the building at the start of the night, and they were a little too amped up because of it. While both prefer playing an uptempo game, the pace was a little too frenetic without any sort of structure which ironically resulted in a slow offensive start.
  2. Gonzaga’s defensive execution was exceedingly poor. The Zags have been a switching team all season, so at this point in the year it’s reasonable to expect them to communicate assignment handoffs seamlessly. That didn’t happen in this game as there were multiple possessions were a BYU player was left alone due to a late rotation with the Zags inadvertently doubling elsewhere, or the Cougars got Childs mismatched on a guard in the post. Gonzaga’s post doubles were also headscratchers, as they played into BYU’s hands by helping off the Cougar’s best shooter, Jake Toolson (a 46% 3PT shooter), whom the Cougars situated on the help side to invite the double. It wasn’t until the last 5-6 minutes of the game that the Zags completely stopped leaving Toolson, which was too late by that point.
  3. BYU won the rebounding battle in the first half which really set the tone for them. That’s not an area of strength for the Cougars, but they outworked Gonzaga which allowed them to create extra possessions (6 offensive rebounds in the first half) while limiting Gonzaga to one shot per trip down the floor on far too many occasions (2 offensive rebounds for GU). The Zags—especially Drew Timme—did a much better job in the second half at getting gritty on the boards which helped them get back in the game, but they had to expend so much energy doing so that they didn’t have anything left to complete the comeback.
  4. Do I think that was a flagrant on Haws when he shoved Petrusev in the first? Yes. Tagging the roller with an off-ball defender is a common defensive tactic to try and eliminate a pocket pass, but there’s tagging a roller and making a full extension shove which rises above a common foul. The referees disagree. The only consolation was that Haws was so focused on getting his shove in that he left Admon Gilder wide open for a three, one of the few that Gonzaga would make in the game.
  5. Joel Ayayi was MIA in this game. His play has really faded over the last month, only scoring in double figures twice over the last seven games, with no apparent explanation for why. He needs to regain an aggressive mindset now that we’re on the doorstep of the tournament. Gonzaga needs the Ayayi we saw in non-conference play.
  6. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said it this year, but Petrusev has to be stronger with the ball in the post. He has scored a lot of points for Gonzaga this year, and he’s obviously a gifted player, but I find myself scratching my head a handful of times each game due to the baskets he gives away around the rim. NBA scouts notice that stuff.
  7. Gonzaga had a lot of good looks from the three-point line in the final 10 minutes when it was a one or two possession game, and just couldn’t get them to sink. USF head coach Todd Golden just commented this week on how the Zags don’t suffer from the same volatility that many programs due on a game-to-game basis because their interior play allows them to overcome a cold shooting night from the perimeter, but that wasn’t the case in this game. The Zags struggled to dominate the paint, and the bigs got no help from the wings who all struggled with the exception of a nice stretch from Gilder during GU’s run in the second half.
  8. I didn’t love how Gonzaga closed out the final three minutes of the game. A win was pretty much out of reach by that point, yes, but they essentially stopped playing as a unit and it left a bad taste in my mouth.
  9. It sucks to lose, but that was a great college basketball environment. At the end of the day it’s a good thing for the program to get a game like that in the WCC.
  10. Gonzaga has not played good basketball since the 30-point win at Saint Mary’s, which was a masterpiece. They looked lethargic and unfocused for extended stretches of the last three games, and it finally cost them a game. BYU was the better team on Saturday, but the Zags made things much more difficult for themselves with the level of execution that was on display. With additional rest coming over the next few weeks before the tournament begins, here’s hoping they can get the adequate rest needed and tighten up on their deficiencies.