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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Portland

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NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Portland Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

It may have been another casual blowout of Portland on paper, but Saturday evening’s trip to the Chiles Center saw Joel Ayayi make history with Gonzaga’s first triple-double. That by itself makes this a game worth remembering for a very long time. What a treat to watch it happen, and that someone like Ayayi can have those bragging rights over the numerous stars that have worn the Gonzaga jersey.

  1. Let us all take a moment to reflect and cherish Joel Ayayi’s triple-double—the first in Gonzaga’s history. He’s had a few close calls over the last two seasons, and it was only a matter of time until he finally got one. That he did it in 23 minutes is quite a feat on its own, but then add the fact that he essentially pitched a perfect game—only two missed shots and no turnovers—to do it is hilariously impressive. The trio of Kispert, Timme, and Suggs gets a lot of the love from the national media, and rightfully so, but Ayayi deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those guys. He never ceases to amaze me and is an incredible basketball player.
  2. There’s something about the Chiles Center that always seems to put Gonzaga to sleep before the game starts. Granted, there is no juice in this matchup for GU, but the Zags were half a step slow on defensive rotations for much of the night which allowed the Pilots to get too many clean shooting opportunities. I know the bench played extensively in the second half, but Portland should not be able to score 88 points against GU (no offense to those guys).
  3. Considering that Portland is one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country, I did not see any scenario where they would be outshooting the Zags 4 to 0 from the arc through the first 10 minutes of the game and 13 to 4 overall.
  4. It was nice to see Aaron Cook back in action after he missed the last two games with a knee injury. His quality on-ball defense helped to disrupt the Portland offense when he entered the game, and he’s a valuable piece to have even though he’s been reduced to a smaller role than he probably envisioned thanks to Nembhard’s waiver.
  5. Drew Timme missed a couple of bunnies in this game. He also decided not to wear a headband. Coincidence? I think not. I mean, I guess he dominated the paint to the tune of 26 points, but that just means he could have had a 30-burger if he made different haberdashery choices.
  6. Even without the three ball falling for the Bulldogs, they still managed a 56-point first half. I’d like to know what the Pilots were thinking at the break. They didn’t give up a single three and were still down by 21 points at the half. That’s so mentally deflating. How do you beat a team that can still manage that?
  7. Seven Zags scored in double figures, Anton Watson hit a career high with 23 points, and Ben Gregg scored his first collegiate basket in this game. That was an enjoyable offensive performance across the board.
  8. Oumar Ballo continues to make strides offensively and has improved with rolling to the rim since the season began. Where he needs to improve next is with his defensive understanding and positioning. Improvement in that aspect of his game would make him a much more reliable security blanket for Timme in the event of foul trouble or injury.
  9. Julian Strawther, who finished with 12 points, looked as comfortable as we’ve seen him all season long. So many of the young guys have made quick progress through the course of the season, which is a testament to their work ethic and the environment that the staff have created for player development.
  10. With no fans and no piped-in crowd noise, the broadcast mics picked up a lot of chatter during the game and it was fantastic. Mark Few was audibly annoyed with the refereeing and you could hear snippets of instruction to the players. I wish we had more games like that this season.