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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Florida

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A memorable finish sealed an iconic victory for the Zags.

Casey Calvary #31

The Florida Gators got a rude awakening if they thought they were going to steamroll the little school from Eastern Washington that none of them had ever heard of.

  1. The Zags set the tone in the opening possessions and made it evidently clear that they had no fear of the Gators and were ready to play. Billy Donovan’s squad probably thought they could simply bully their opponents into submission. Good luck telling that to Casey Calvary, Axel Dench, and the rest of the fellas.
  2. Florida’s (lack of) ball security made them very ripe for an upset. 10 turnovers in the first 14 minutes of the game (19 total) is going to put you in a bad spot during a tournament game. Quentin Hall did a great job of being a pest with his on-ball pressure, and was quick to a lot of loose balls that ignited transition the other way.
  3. For their part, the Zags handled Florida’s press well in the first half and capitalized on the open shots they created on the perimeter as the Gators got spread out and unable to organize their half court defense. Gonzaga turned the ball over a handful of times, but overall it was solid work by Matt Santangelo, Hall, and Richie Frahm in weathering the pressure and distributing the ball under duress.
  4. I completely forgot about the freshman class that Florida fielded of Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, and Teddy Dupay. Miller became a #5 pick overall in the NBA Draft and had a 17-year NBA career, while Haslem went undrafted but is still in the midst of a 16-year NBA career, all with the Miami Heat. Nevertheless, they weren’t the difference against Gonzaga.
  5. Speaking of Miller, current Gonzaga strength and conditioning coach Mike Nilson did a good job defending him and mitigating the impact he could make on the game. Nilson’s work carried over into the following season when he picked up the WCC Defensive Player of the Year award before rupturing his achilles in the WCC Tournament opener.
  6. Richie Frahm was an absolute menace! He had such a smooth release on his 3-ball and never got sped up at the offensive end. His personal run of three consecutive three-pointers (and he nearly made a fourth) late in the second half kept Gonzaga in the game and in position to pull off the dramatic win.
  7. Gonzaga’s defense did a really god job of defending the perimeter and made the Gators uncomfortable by mixing in some pressure 2-3 zone to vary their looks.
  8. A lot of strong off-ball screening helped free up the Gonzaga guards who were really strong at spotting up on the perimeter (7-11 3PA in the first half, and 12-22 3PA overall). Three-point shooting was tight and the Zags were throwing the ball inside to Calvary, Eaton and Dench with enough regularity to keep the Gators honest.
  9. Florida’s made three with 45 seconds left in the game which gave the Gators a 72-69 lead might have taken the wind out of the sails for a lesser team, but there’s something about the mental fortitude of Gonzaga squads. This team was the godfather of that never say die attitude.
  10. It wasn’t the cleanest, most mistake-free game ever played but these teams were gritty. Gonzaga was just a little more gritty and it made all the difference.