The USF game may be the template for GU playing the top half of the WCC teams: Opponents may remain competitive in the first half but the Zags depth, length and athleticism wear them down. The bottom half teams……….well….
1. USF Coach Todd Golden’s analytics and strategy may have prevented Corey Kispert beating him from deep, they sure didn’t include a plan to stop him from beating him at the rim. Corey was 9 for 9 in the paint with scoring a game high 26 points with three assists. He did miss two three point attempts but the one he made was spectacular. A forty foot dagger from just inside mid-court to put the Zags up by 10 at the half. It was the closest USF would be for the rest of the game.
2. Joel Ayayi is averaging 19 points and 10.3 rebounds per game over the past three contests with last night being his third triple double in a row. When USF got within three with about six minutes to play in the first half, Joel made floater in the lane, a little later his steal and dunk to extend the Zag lead to seven. Joel should be the fifth Zag (Suggs, Timme, Nembhard, Kispert) to be announced as WCC Player of the Week come Monday.
3. Anton Watson struggled again yesterday. Few gave the hook early in the first half after he committed two turnovers in two minutes and didn’t start him in the second half. He did have some redemptive moments hitting an important one and one in the closing moments of the first half with a great pass followed by a block in the second half. Sure, Anton is having a tough go at times, but Mark Few is a pretty good judge of talent. I’m reminded of the sophomore seasons of Mike Hart, David Stockton, Kelly Olynyk, Silas Melson and the aforementioned Corey Kispert. Many questioned on why Few continued to play them and they all turned out pretty well.
4. Did anyone else have a Magic Johnson flashback watching Suggs throw a rope 50-foot bounce pass?
5. Timme had a quiet double-double yesterday with 10 points and 11 rebounds. He’s really turned himself into an good rebounder. He and Joel’s ability to keep Gonzaga competitive on the glass is one of the keys allowing this year’s squad to be so effective at “small ball”.
6. Jamaree Bouyea looked scary good in the first half going 7 for 9 from the field, scoring 16 points and potentially breaking some ankles. In fact, the USF offense looked very good in the first half with some impressive back cuts and pick and rolls. As mentioned in the opening, GU just wore them down and they weren’t competitive in the 2nd half. Bouyea went 1 for 5 scoring only two more points. Like Iowa before them, the GU defense prevented the Dons for shooting close to season average three point attempts (23 vs. 33) while making only 8 of those attempts. Remember when 3-point defense was a Gonzaga Achilles heel?
7. Not sure if it was Aaron Cook not playing (Meehan tweeted he has a sore leg), but for some reason the ESPN announcing team of Sciambi and Fraschilla commented on Gonzaga’s lack of a point guard. Of course, Suggs and Nembhard are two of the nation’s best at that position, Cook isn’t far behind and Ayayi would certainly do in a pinch. The comment was meant to highlight Timme, the “five”, bringing the ball up court on a couple of occasions. The announcer discourse on “point center” Timme coincided with him hitting Nembhard with a sweet pass on a back cut for an easy basket.
8. USF’s 6’10” 240lb Dutchman Jonas Visser was pretty effective at backing Drew Timme down to within a couple feet of the basket. Fortunately for GU, it was usually followed by a very ineffective hook shot. I saw the same thing attempted late in the 2nd half as backup center Samba Kane tried to back Ballo down. I had to smile and think of Karnowski as I watched Kane bounce off Ballo twice before giving it up.
9. I’m holding out hope that Pavel Zakharov and Martynas Arlauskas will eventually become rotation players. With this season not counting against eligibility, this year is effectively a redshirt season with the benefit of occasional playing time. Hopefully both continue to work on their bodies and their games without getting frustrated and transferring.
10. Let’s fondly remember Paul Westphal who died of brain cancer this weekend. He was an exceptional player, longtime NBA coach and also coached Pepperdine in the early 2000s when they were Gonzaga’s closest rival. Also, best wishes to former BYU (and Dixie State) coach Dave Rose. Rose battled cancer, a heart attack and yesterday was felled by a stroke. Rose is a class act, always gracious in defeat and in victory with BYU beating Gonzaga at home three straight seasons.