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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over BYU


NCAA Basketball: Santa Clara at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was fun. Gonzaga’s dominance for the first 30 minutes of the night against what is considered the second-best team in the WCC will likely result in its critics once again arguing that the Zags aren’t tested in conference play. It wasn’t their night, but BYU is a well-coached team with good players. Maybe, just maybe, the Zags are just that good. Just ask Mark Pope, who said after the game that Gonzaga has “a chance to be a generational team.” He might be right.

  1. BYU found out very quickly what every team that has played Gonzaga this season learned— you pay dearly if you can’t take care of the ball. Failing to take care of the ball is a guaranteed way to lose against the Zags. Every turnover is an automatic bucket the other way. You can’t make mistakes against this team.
  2. The Cougars looked like a team that hadn’t played since December 23 so I will give them a little bit of a pass. This game got away from them very quickly. It’s difficult to maintain an even keel when the Gonzaga offense is humming, and I would imagine impossible to do so when you haven’t played in two weeks and find yourself down by 23-2 before you can even break a sweat.
  3. I’m going to miss Jalen Suggs’ absurd full court passes after this season. But since it’s unbecoming for me to gush about him completely in every single one of these articles, I have to point out he was pretty sloppy with his handle tonight. It’s not a fundamental flaw, I think he just got a little excited in some moments throughout the game. You want to make your mark in the rivalry games—particularly if you’re only going to be around for one year.
  4. Gonzaga’s defense (and to an extent its offense) was able to hurry up BYU’s offense to a speed they weren’t comfortable playing through. The stress of trying to keep pace with Gonzaga’s scoring output and dealing with their quickness and athleticism on the defensive end can make the wheels fall off.
  5. Yes, these teams only had 48 hours to prepare for each other. But let’s be real, there are no surprises awaiting BYU. These teams are very familiar with the offensive and defensive systems that the other runs. So while “preparation” time may have been short, this was just a good old fashioned beatdown. After the game, Mark Pope commented that Gonzaga’s length and athleticism was not a surprise to them, “but it’s different when you feel it.”
  6. Corey Kispert has been so good this season that a game where he finishes with 23 points on 9-16 shooting from the field (2-5 3PA) with 3 rebounds and 2 assists felt like his worst performance of the season (the NAU game was actually his worst from a scoring and offensive rating perspective, but does that really count?). He is playing at an unbelievable level.
  7. Joel Ayayi’s baseline cuts in the first half were exceptional. His ability to read the defense, time his runs, and finish through contact is so fun to watch.
  8. BYU tried to turn up the pressure man defense in the second half to create some turnovers and cut into the deficit, but that simply allowed the Zags to run very simple slip concepts to generate a slew of easy layups and dunks. The Cougar defense was in disarray for much of the night and had no answers for the GU offense.
  9. 11, 9, 8, 8, 8, 6. That’s how the scoring was distributed amongst Gonzaga’s starters and Andrew Nembhard in the first half. If you have that kind of balanced scoring distribution, your team is unguardable. Gonzaga’s offense causes so much stress for opposing defenses, and this is why.
  10. The Zags lit up BYU through the first 10 minutes, and then took their foot off the pedal for a few minutes late in the first half which allowed the Cougars to cut the deficit down to 13 points with four minutes left. While it’s understandably difficult to stay totally engaged after building a 20+ point lead in such convincing manner, I’m guessing Mark Few had some words about continuing to step on an opponent’s throat in that situation. The Zags responded well coming out of the final timeout and showcased the killer instinct that will need to be ever-present over the next 3.5 months.