It wasn’t always pretty, but the Gonzaga Bulldogs continued their winning ways with a 90-62 win over the San Diego Toreros at Jenny Craig Pavilion. So what were some takeaways from the Zags’ 17th win of the season?
1. San Diego was largely able to control the pace of the game during the first 10 to 12 minutes. While some props are in order for the Toreros, a lot of this can be pinned on Gonzaga once again being slow out of the gate, struggling to get into rhythm on both ends of the floor.
2. For all of Gonzaga’s early struggles, it was this dunk by USD’s Finn Sullivan that had me thinking this was not the Zag’s night.
No offense to Sullivan, who led the Toreros with 16 points, but a skinny guy with rec specs dunking on you isn’t the best way to start a game.
3. In my opinion, the most outrageous statistic from the Zags’ early struggles was that they could only muster 11 points through the first ten minutes of play. For a team that scored 102 and 98 on Kansas and Virginia respectively, a 44 point pace against USD was never going to cut it for Mark Few’s bunch.
4. Shortly after I made this observation, the tide started to shift for the Zags, who soon went on a 15-0 run to seize control of the game. Drew Timme was able to assert himself down low, and some energetic defense led to steals and open buckets for the Zags.
5. Speaking of Timme, it once again became apparent how important it is for him to be aggressive on offense. He has tremendous post moves which allow him to get good looks in close and draw a lot of fouls. However, the first stretch of the game saw Timme unable to take advantage, shying away from contact and missing some easy shots. Once he was able to find his way, the tides began turning for Gonzaga as a whole.
6. Perhaps as a symptom of Gonzaga’s early struggles, Corey Kispert only attempted two threes in the first half. He was more involved in the second, but still only attempted five three pointers total. He finished the game with 19 points, nine coming from beyond the arc. A game like this where Kispert doesn’t have to rely on taking and making a bunch of threes shows how well rounded of an offensive player he is.
7. There were a few “quiet” offensive performances in this game, but none stick out more on the stat sheet than Andrew Nembhard’s 10 assists. He is the third Zag this season, along with Joel Ayayi and Jalen Suggs, to record at least eight assists in the game, while he ans Ayayi have both recorded double digit assist games. This level of passing prowess and overall offensive versatility makes defending Gonzaga so difficult, and is one of the reasons why they have the best offense in college basketball.
8. With Oumar Ballo out and Anton Watson shackled with foul trouble, Julian Strawther got some extra minutes, and he played up to the assignment. Strawther nearly matched his season high in points, finishing with 11 on four of five shooting. His three in the first half was followed by a steal and transition layup on the ensuing possession, and proved to be a catalyst for the rest of the game.
9. When in doubt, Gonzaga was once again able to turn to its “Big Three” on offense, as Kispert, Timme, and Suggs carried the scoring load throughout most of the game. While there were undeniable contributions elsewhere on the floor, these guys took control, scoring 57 of the Zags’ 90 points and combining to score or assist on 30 of 34 made field goals.
10. I’m not sure what caused the Zags’ slow start, but I’m not totally ruling out the potential psychological effects of the loud and clearly artificial crowd noise inside Jenny Craig Pavilion. I haven’t seen many basketball games, particularly at the college level, pipe in fake crowds, and from this game I think I understand why. To be honest, I doubt I’m the only one, either:
Are those wind chimes going off?— Slipper Still Fits (@slipperstillfit) January 29, 2021
Here’s to hoping we can get real life fans back in the stands some time soon.