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10 Observation From Gonzaga’s Win Over Lewis-Clark State

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NCAA Basketball: Lewis Clark State at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Two blow-outs over NAIA schools as expected but things get real serious in seven more days.

1. I’ll admit, I wasn’t fully on the Anton Watson train last season. Flashes of brilliance could be followed by minutes of hesitant inactivity. Not this year, the beefier Watson exudes confidence and is actively seeking scoring opportunities to compliment his spectacular defense and sniper-like passing lane interdiction. Watson got minutes at the “5” in a small ball line up and looks to be a beast in the paint.

2. Speaking of beasts in the paint, Kaden Perry appears to be the fourth big. In one two-minute stretch in the second half, he got a put back dunk, scored on a Timmesque post move the next possession with the next possession ending in a made jump hook. Perry’s physicality, toughness and rim protection are too valuable not to give him floor time.

3. For the second game in a row, the three-point shooting wasn’t just bad, it was ugly. 6 for 21 before three makes at the end of the game. Nembhard, Hickman and Bolton were 2 for 11 from deep and several of their misses weren’t even close. Normally on a team this deep and talented, I’d think Dominick Harris would consider a medical redshirt. If he is a consistent three-point threat upon his return, I’m sure there will be minutes for him unless his backcourt mates dramatically improve.

4. Tonight we saw Drew Timme return to form with his post play, but I’ve been equally impressed with his improved defense and passing. He’s moving and possibly even jumping better. His most valuable improvement may be his 7 for 7 performance from the free throw line. Last season, he shot twice as many free throws as Kispert and 70 more than #2 Suggs. If he can shoot 80% from the line, he’ll be an end of game nightmare as opponents “try” to avoid fouling him. One other thing, watch how good he is at sealing his defender when a teammate drives to the basket.

5. For the second straight game, Nolan Hickman led the team in minutes and assists. There was some conjecture in the preseason he may redshirt because of the depth. We all know how much GU love two point guards and it looks like Hickman has firmly established himself as part of the rotation.

6. Chet Holmgren is surprisingly tough playing post defense. I was watching him lock-up the guy he was defending and he didn’t give an inch. I’ll be curious to see if some 255 lb. UCLA monster does back him down, but I guessing he’s not real easy to shoot over. He just smothered opponents on his blocks tonight.

7. Remember the 16-17 team when Tillie and Collins would enter the game as a pair and the opponents frontcourt got no rest. I got that impression tonight watching Watson and Strawther enter the game in the 1st half. Arguably, the team got better after the substitution. Oh yeah, Hunter Sallis was the next Zag sub to enter the game followed by Kaden Perry.

8. Speaking of Hunter Sallis, I’m surprised at how well he’s played when I look at the box score. In both exhibition games, he “quietly” goes 5 for 7 from the field grabbing 7 rebounds against Eastern Oregon and 4 tonight. Just as impressive as his efficiency from the field is the freshman has played almost 40 minutes in two games and has only committed one turnover.

9. I thought I’d see more three-quarter court press tonight. We saw it quite a bit against Eastern Oregon and I would have expected to be a integral part of this large and athletic Zag team’s arsenal. Especially with Chet Holmgren playing centerfield under the Zag basket.

10. Julian Strawther, Julian Strawther, Julian Strawther!!! After killing it at Kraziness and leading the team in scoring against Eastern Oregon, he looked like he would be a non-factor when he entered tonight’s game in the first half. Nope, no way. In the second half he goes 3 for 5 from the field, 2 for 3 from deep scoring 9 point with 2 offensive rebounds in 13 minutes. In two games he’s shooting 56% from the field and 50% from the arc. He’s always smiling, always humble and says he does what he does to “honor his late mother” who died of breast cancer when he was nine. I think I have a new favorite player.