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10 Observations from Alabama’s win over Gonzaga

7-2.

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

Gonzaga has now lost two of their last three, and this matchup with Alabama looked pretty similar to the Duke loss and the shallow win over Tarleton State. Some of these observations may look a bit familiar now, but here we go:

  1. For the third game in a row, the Zags let the opposing team completely dictate the pace of play on both sides of the floor. It started with Duke, continued with Tarleton State, and truly came to a head in the first half against Alabama. As noted on the broadcast, the 16-point halftime deficit was the biggest for the Zags since a loss to Memphis back in 2009.
  2. On the offensive end, the team looked stagnant. They were unable to get into the flow of their offense or get good penetration inside, especially during the first half. Dealing with tough defense, especially what we’ve seen from Bama and Duke, is going to be part of the learning curve for this team going forward.
  3. Despite the Zags’ struggles in the first half, they were able to stay somewhat close to the Crimson Tide thanks to Drew Timme. He led the team with 23 points overall, with much of that damage coming in the first 20 minutes of play.
  4. Part of Gonzaga’s struggles on offense can be linked straight back to their defense. They were reactionary on that side of the ball, letting Alabama (and especially Jaden Shackleford) get pretty much whatever they wanted. Props to the Tide for their execution, but if the Zags aren’t getting stops, they won’t be able to get into their transition offense nearly as much as they like.
  5. I’m sure Mark Few had some strong words for his team in the locker room at halftime, and they seemed to resonate coming out of the break. The Zags were certainly more intense, and their offensive execution was more crisp. Overall, however, there were still some inconsistencies, especially on defense, which ultimately thwarted the comeback.
  6. Crimson Tide center Charles Bediako had six blocks and two steals in the game, and was a big reason why Bama’s defense halted the Zags in the paint. In each of Gonzaga’s last three losses, including last season (Baylor, Duke, Alabama), athletic bigs have been a common problem. Even though Timme had a good game individually, this is obviously still something to look out for going forward.
  7. The rotations and usage of Gonzaga’s depth pieces have fluctuated early in the season, but Nolan Hickman showed last night why he’s deserving of time on the court. He nearly single handedly brought the Zags back in the game, scoring nine straight points at one point in the second. The dude can score the basketball, and showed some impressive range on a pair of threes as well.
  8. Alabama nearly bailed out the Zags with their reckless committing of fouls throughout the game. They committed 24 fouls as a team, with four players having four apiece. I’m not sure if this is a silver lining for Gonzaga, but it is an interesting takeaway nonetheless.
  9. The Zags couldn’t take advantage of Bama’s foul trouble, shooting an abysmal 13-25 from the line. This is such a basic aspect of the game that it can be overlooked, but performances like that can’t keep happening.
  10. This is a young team, and it showed. Considering the polished nature of Zags teams the last few years, we got lulled into that expectation this year, especially after the thrashings of Texas and UCLA. There’s no reason to believe Few and Co. won’t have the gang ready to go come March, but they’ve certainly got some work to do.