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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over USF

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Four consecutive 30-win seasons!

NCAA Basketball: West Coast Conference Tournament-Gonzaga vs San Francisco Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It did not come easy for Gonzaga in any of the three games against the San Francisco Dons, but they found a way to get it done each time. The stakes were a little higher in the WCC Semifinal, but there’s a reason why Gonzaga has been a fixture in the conference championship game over the last 20+ years.

  1. The French contingent was so strong down the stretch. The first 30 minutes were not Joel Ayayi’s best work, but he came alive in the closing minutes to help get the Zags across the finish line. There’s not much more that can be said about Killian Tillie, who has stepped up for Gonzaga every time they’ve had their backs against the wall. It’s unreal how many times he’s delivered for this team. What a treat to have him in this program over the last 4 years.
  2. I really liked the off-ball movement from the guards early in the game. They were quick and decisive going to the basket, and it was apparent that there was a point of emphasis to get them involved right away and on the right track offensively which paid dividends later on.
  3. Early on, USF applied the same defensive pressure on the perimeter that we saw in the first two games, overplaying ball denials and extending the defensive shell to pressure the ball on the wings. GU had a much better plan in place to exploit that pressure (see #2) created a lot of layups and allowed the offense to get into a flow (though that would not continue).
  4. He’s done it plenty of times throughout his career, but once again Tillie showcased his skillset at the top of the arc to serve as the point man for Gonzaga’s offense. His legs appeared to lack some juice, however, as his shot was pretty short on all his shot attempts from that spot with his only made 3 coming from the corner (though it was a big one to help put away the Dons). It’s not surprising that he has some nights where his legs just don’t have it considering his injury history, but that will be something to watch during the tournament.
  5. USF conceded the free throw line to Petrusev and Timme in an effort to take away the high low game, and it worked as neither forward was able to make them pay by being able to hit a jumper (or floater, as Petrusev tried) from that distance. Need to make defenses pay from that distance to keep the passing lanes open.
  6. Ryan Woolridge had his A-game early and his first half aggressiveness resulted in 14 points and a lot of easy buckets for the Gonzaga offense. He can get into the paint without much trouble against every team in country, but we haven’t seen enough of it in the last few weeks. It makes a big difference for how opposing teams have to defend Gonzaga, and takes a lot of stress off the bigs to facilitate the offense.
  7. Gonzaga’s ball screen defense continues to be extremely subpar. It is definitely the achilles heel for this team and the biggest concern for the tournament.
  8. Jimbo Lull picked up two fouls on moving screens, including his fourth early in the second half that landed him on the bench. That is unbelievably irresponsible considering those are easily avoidable fouls. You can’t do that to your team, particularly when they’re relying on you to slow down the opposing team’s all-conference center.
  9. While I loved Gonzaga’s offensive gameplan in the first half to pick apart USF’s man-to-man scheme, the ball movement was a little stale in the second half and the Zags struggled to execute their offense cleanly. Mark Few opted to go with the small lineup and Tillie at the 5 to close out the game, which I think was the right call as Petrusev seemed to be a little off for most of the night.
  10. Todd Golden is a good coach. It’s clear that he has the X’s and O’s acumen as USF has had the right plan for Gonzaga in every game, but I’m more impressed by his man-management skills to keep his team believing and competing in a third game after two pretty heartbreaking losses (for different reasons) earlier in the season.