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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win at Saint Mary’s

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NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at St. Mary’s Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was a treat! Gonzaga’s 30-point victory on Saturday night was its largest margin of victory at Saint Mary’s in at least the last 20 years, a margin that amazingly could have been even larger. The Zags once again reminded a national audience of their Final Four credentials, and demonstrated how dangerous they can be.

  1. All seven guys in Gonzaga’s rotation are averaging double figures in scoring with Drew Timme reaching that threshold during this game thanks to his 20-point output. That is a remarkable feat and speaks to Mark Few’s equal opportunity offense and the unselfishness of the squad.
  2. Speaking of unselfishness, Filip Petrusev had a moment of madness about seven minutes into the second half which was not a good look for him. The Zags missed Petrusev deep in the post and didn’t throw the ball inside after he won position. That happens. What can’t happen is what he did next where he threw a little tantrum and gave up on the entire possession by walking out of the play. It wasn’t surprising to see him get subbed out at the next dead ball, though he compounded his initial mistake by jawing with the staff (at least that’s what it looked like on TV, a different, and charitable, interpretation of this sequence could be Petrusev was frustrated with the refs because he was being held on the play and no foul was called). He was allowed to return to the game a few minutes later and played with effort, but Mark Few and the rest of the staff almost assuredly had an extended conversation with him after the game. No matter how you look at the sequence, it was extremely immature on Petrusev’s part and not the Gonzaga way.
  3. SMC’s Malik Fitts has been a matchup nightmare for a lot of teams this season, but the Zags have the perfect personnel to defend him straight up in Corey Kispert and Killian Tillie as his primary covers. Fitts took advantage of some switches that allowed him to post-up on guards, but overall Gonzaga didn’t ever feel the need to double team him and Fitts ended up taking himself out of the game with his knack of getting into foul trouble.
  4. The other key matchup in Jordan Ford and Ryan Woolridge was fun to watch as well. Ford got his stats, but finished with more turnovers (3) than assists (2) and had to work hard for each of his 23 points. Gonzaga forced Ford, and the SMC offense as a whole, to play a lot of isolation basketball and the Gaels simply don’t have the pieces to win that type of game.
  5. The minutes distribution in this contest was just about perfect, with Woolridge (33 minutes) and Petrusev (30 minutes) the only Zags to play above 30 minutes. It was also evident that the coaching staff wanted to closely monitor Killian Tillie’s condition early on by giving him an early sub just two minutes into the action to get his feedback on the state of his ankle. Based on his performance and usage for the rest of the evening, he must not have felt any serious ill-effects from last week’s sprain.
  6. The first half was nearly perfect save for six horrendous turnovers by the Zags in the first five minutes and eight turnovers overall during that half of the game. It was frustrating to see them be so sloppy and careless with the ball considering SMC wasn’t applying particularly aggressive pressure or doing anything unique with its coverages that would have confused them, but I’ll give them a pass since nearly every other possession that didn’t end with a turnover resulted in a made basket. That’s one way to overcome your mistakes.
  7. Drew Timme dominated SMC early when he was able to get isolated on the low block. His teammates did a good job of being patient and waiting for him to win position, and trusted him to win his matchup. Timme has earned that trust over the course of the season, but particularly over the last three games as the team has relied upon him to be a bigger producer after Tillie’s injury. He has rewarded that trust and become a legitimate game changer.
  8. SMC did a poor job overall of denying entry passes into the past. You would think the Gaels would make a more concerted effort to prevent that from happening since they don’t really have the personnel to defend skilled post players straight up. Once the ball went inside, it was almost an automatic bucket for Gonzaga every time down the floor.
  9. Great job by the Zags in reading SMC’s ball screen actions and taking away their passing lanes. The Gaels have relied heavily on Fitts and Ford to draw double teams or break down opposing defenses for much of the season, but their offensive system is still designed to generate open shots from dribble penetration and kickouts. The Zags eliminated all those secondary options and challenged Fitts and Ford to keep up with the Gonzaga offense.
  10. I really want to know what Mark Few said to Randy Bennett in the handshake line after the game. Few forced a laugh from his counterpart, something I wasn’t even sure Bennett was capable of.