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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win at BYU

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NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Brigham Young Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

There would be no upset to be had in Provo, as the Gonzaga Bulldogs used their scrappy defense (!) to shut down BYU and move one step closer to a perfect season.

  1. Both Gonzaga and BYU opted to change their starting lineups for this game. Gonzaga swapped Anton Watson for Andrew Nembhard to get the “death lineup” on the floor, while the Cougars handed Gideon George his second start of the season to field a more athletic lineup with George as the preferred matchup for Corey Kispert. It was a smart change for the Zags to try and manufacture a faster start after some sluggish opening halves in the last few weeks, while simultaneously guarding against a scenario where Watson and Drew Timme found themselves in foul trouble at the same time (although Oumar Ballo was surprisingly in action for this game—but looked very rusty) against a BYU squad that has size. The move paid off for Mark Few.
  2. We haven’t seen Jalen Suggs post-up too many times on the low block this season, but he showed off some nice footwork to set up his defender with a drop step and spin move to give himself an easy layup. That’s a great little wrinkle for his game to give opponents something to think about, considering all the other aspects of his game that he put on full display in this contest. He was a devastating force.
  3. Mark Pope utilized a trio of bigs to try and slow down Drew Timme, but the sophomore center proved to be too tall of an order for the Cougars. His footwork and off-ball movement simply makes him a handful for most opposing bigs, and his ability to score from just about any place on the floor places a lot of stress on defenses in tracking him. It was fun to watch him go to work in this one.
  4. The Zags did what they were supposed to do with Alex Barcello and harried him at the three point line. Give him credit though for adjusting his game and taking what the Zags were giving him in the mid-range areas of the floor. I’d rather have him hitting a bunch of 15-footers as opposed to threes. He played a strong game—it honestly felt like he had 40 points, not 20—and kept BYU from getting wrecked on its home floor.
  5. We have been denied so many minutes of Suggs action this season because of dubious foul calls. The amount of lost minutes are piling up, and are made even more frustrating by the fact this will be his only season with Gonzaga.
  6. Matt Haarms, who had no points and 1 rebound in 15 minutes in this game, did not have an easy go of it against Gonzaga this season. The game moved too fast for him in both contests against his one-time transfer destination.
  7. For someone we weren’t planning on having available to Gonzaga this season, it’s now impossible to imagine what this team would look like without Andrew Nembhard in the picture.
  8. They hung in there, but nothing came easy for BYU in this game. Gonzaga’s defense made them work extremely hard for just about every single basket, and was the better unit for Mark Few.
  9. The Cougars successfully bottled up Corey Kispert for 40 minutes. Their reward? A double digit loss at home. That’s how hard it is to beat this Gonzaga team.
  10. BYU at the Marriott Center was the last best hope for Gonzaga’s detractors to see them stumble this season. At no point this year did I see anything that made me believe that there was a WCC team that could beat Gonzaga, but now that this game is officially in the books an undefeated season is tantalizingly close.